When Bill Wallace first moved to China in 1994, the pollution in Beijing was so thick he could see it in the air. Eight years later, the view is vastly improved, thanks in part to the hard work of NREL's Wallace.
"In 1994, you could drive down the highway and know you were breathing in gas and coal dust," Wallace said. "But today, the air quality is comparable to U.S. and European cities. Due to the Chinese governments support of clean energy, Chinese citizens have been urged to convert from coal burning stoves to natural gas, businesses have been forced to control emissions and the cities have been experimenting with public transportation such as electric buses.
Renewable energy is clean energy and for his outstanding contributions towards the long-term development of renewable energy in China, Wallace was awarded the 2001 Chinese National Friendship Award.
The Friendship Award is the highest-level state award that can be given to foreign experts in China. In 2001, 50 foreign experts from 17 countries were recognized in ceremonies conducted during the national celebration of the 52nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Wallace visited China for the first time in 1986 and since 1994 has been working full time on renewable energy project development in China. He has managed a number of projects to develop solar, biomass and wind energy in China. Those projects have resulted in several significant achievements, such as assisting the opening of rural electrification markets using improved wind and solar solutions in Inner Mongolia and Western China.
"From an outside perspective, the rate of development of renewable energy has been slow in China in areas such as the installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems, large scale wind farm development and the use of certain technologies," Wallace said. "But, China has the world's largest installed capacity of small-scale wind and biomass renewable applications and an enormous potential for grid-connected wind energy and all forms of solar energy."
Since 1999, Wallace has been working as senior technical advisor for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) Program on a project called "Capacity Building for the Rapid Commercialization of Renewable Energy in China." This program is aimed at accelerating the sustainable development and commercialization of environmentally friendly renewable energy technologies in Chinese markets.
"China is a top nation in regards to resources," Wallace said. "Its resources also are strategically distributed throughout the country with wind along the coastal regions and a huge solar potential in unelectrified western China."
During his eight year association with renewable energy in China, Wallace finds the most rewarding aspect to be the collaborations with his NREL colleagues throughout the organization, especially in the wind, solar, biomass, resource assessment, international, and analysis groups in the laboratory.
"I trust that the journey has been a rewarding and interesting one for all of us. I also appreciate the strong support of NREL management, without which the work would not be possible," Wallace said.
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