Issue Date: September 26, 2011
Protests Flare At Chinese Solar Plant
Chinese police arrested dozens of people after protests turned violent at a JinkoSolar Holding solar-cell plant in the economically affluent province of Zhejiang, just south of Shanghai on the east coast of China. The local government ordered a production halt while it investigates the facility’s environmental control systems.
The three days of protests, which began on Sept. 15, were triggered by the death of fish in a river near the plant. In a statement issued last week, JinkoSolar said the plant accidentally discharged a “small” amount of solid waste containing fluoride compounds. The company believes that “unexpected and extreme” rainfalls may be responsible for the spill.
The municipal government of Haining, where JinkoSolar’s facility is located, reported on its website that 500 people gathered in front of the plant on the evening of Sept. 15. The protesters overturned eight cars and caused other damage. The Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that police jailed 31 people and sent 100 others to “legal education” sessions.
JinkoSolar, a public company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange, was ranked as the world’s 11th largest producer of photovoltaic cells in the first quarter of this year and is probably among the top 10 now, says Stefan de Haan, a Munich-based photovoltaics analyst at IHS iSuppli, a market intelligence firm.
“[Photovoltaic] cell production does not cause pollution like heavy industry, but the chemical waste has to be treated appropriately,” de Haan says. “There can be dangerous chemicals involved, [but] as long as the processes are well-controlled and the environmental standards are sufficient, there’s virtually no environmental impact.”
JinkoSolar says the closure of the Haining facility will not have a material impact on its operations because it has a larger plant in Jiangxi province that is unaffected by the brouhaha. Still, the company’s stock plummeted from $10.50 before the trouble started to $5.75 on Sept. 21.
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