Wuxi: “Little Shanghai’s” Big Place in the Solar Industry

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This post is the second in a series by guest blogger Abby Poats. Abby Poats is a Research Associate based in Beijing with the Washington DC-based American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) US-China Program (USCP). She also teaches English at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing through the Princeton in Asia (PiA) fellowship program. Her blog entries contain her personal reflections and do not reflect the views of ACORE USCP.

The city of Wuxi is located in south-central Jiangsu province about 130 kilometers west of Shanghai. A city with over 3000 years of history, known as the “Pearl of Lake Tai,” is home to a host of natural and cultural attractions, including beautiful Lake Tai and artifacts from the Wu era in the mid-to-late second century.


During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Wuxi’s economy was largely based on agriculture, particularly rice. By the beginning of the 20th century, Wuxi’s economy had expanded and diversified to include textiles. While its economy is still based largely on textiles and manufacturing, the city’s booming development is increasingly attributed to high-tech industries.

With a total population of about 4.5 million people, Wuxi is a small city by Chinese standards, but with a booming economy driven by its eight industrial development zones, today it is known as “Little Shanghai.” In fact, in 2008 Forbes ranked Wuxi as the third best business city in China, and a recent national index ranks its economic development ninth out of 659 major cities.

In addition to Wuxi’s recent focus on information technology innovation, it is a national leader in renewable energy technology manufacturing. According to an official who spoke at the China International New Energy Expo (CINEE) held in Wuxi in September 2009, Wuxi is the leading solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer in China and also hosts over 30 wind power production businesses.

Specifically, Wuxi-Singapore Industrial Park—a joint venture initiated in 1993 between the government of Wuxi and a Singapore-based industrial corporation—is home to the global research and development headquarters of Suntech Power, one of the world’s largest solar technology manufacturers. Established in February 2009, the headquarters in Wuxi themselves are home to an impressive 1 megawatt (MW) solar PV façade, the world’s largest building integrated solar photovoltaic (BIPV), grid-connected system.

Wuxi: “Little Shanghai’s” Big Place in the Solar Industry

The first privately owned Chinese company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange in December 2005, today Suntech ranks third in the world for solar cell PV manufacturing and first for complete solar module manufacturing. With third quarter 2009 growth of almost 50% and three new large supply contracts in Europe, Suntech appears poised to further enlarge “Little Shanghai’s” economy and its role in the solar industry.

By Abby Poats


Photo credit: Technology Review and PV Magazine

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