Solar power lifts former model workers

August 09, 2019 |

Shanghai's first solar-powered elevator for an old residential building started operation on Thursday in the city's first “worker’s community."

Solar panels on the rooftop of 39 Guixiang Neighborhood of Caoyang Community in Putuo District can supply power to both the elevator and lights and other public facilities in the building.

Residents needn't split electricity bills for the elevator like those in other old buildings with a new elevator do, and can receive profits as excess electricity generated will go back to the electricity grid.

The building, built in 1984, is the oldest in the city to have a new elevator installed. The six-story building, like other residential complexes in the community, was home to China's early model workers.

Half of the residents in the 24 households, including many former honorable model workers, are over 80 years old.

"Without the elevator, most of the residents can hardly go downstairs once every week," said Shen Jinzhang, a retired official from a local elevator plant who volunteered to lead a campaign last year to have the elevator installed.

Construction work began in March this year and all his neighbors agreed to share the cost of the project.

A major challenge was an electricity pole standing right beside the place where the elevator was to be built. It would cost over 100,000 yuan to relocate the pole and prolong the schedule.

The Shibei Electric Power Co offered a solution. Engineers protected the pole with insulation wrapping and separated the overhead cables from the scaffolding for the elevation installation. Some of the cables were relocated, said Chen Jian, Party secretary of the neighborhood committee.

Experts with the power company also researched the structure of the building to ensure the safety of the lift's power supply, Chen said.

Thanks to his knowledge of elevator installation, Shen get all the required rubber stamps and helped complete the streamlined 15 approval procedures from the government within six months.

Shen took some 2,000 photos on the process of the elevator installation and shared them with neighbors during the installation.

"Our dream finally comes true today and I hope more residents in the community can have their elevators soon," Shen said.

During installation, the construction company suggested to install solar panels on the rooftop to power the elevator with clean energy while reducing electricity costs for the residents. The proposal was soon accepted.

"We focus not only on the stable operation of the lift but also its safety and sustainability," said 80-year-old resident surnamed Sheng.

The community, covering some 2 square kilometers, sprung up in 1951 as homes for model workers, a forerunner to other workers’ communities that were built nationwide to accommodate the growing workforce during a period of rapid industrialization.

As the first “new community” in Shanghai that opened up to the outside world, it has received more than 300,000 people from over 150 countries and regions. High-ranking visitors include former US President Richard Nixon and other national leaders.

However, as the population ages, the high-rise buildings which were once a source of great pride have become a source of distress.

Among the 63 neighborhoods in Caoyang, 45 are multi-story buildings without a lift. Over 40 percent of inhabitants are over 60 and eager for an elevator.

Five elevators have been installed for the old residential buildings in the community while another four are being built, according to the Caoyang Community subdistrict. An elevator installation guidance office has been established to help shorten the approval and installation process.

Citywide, there are about 220,000 buildings without elevators in Shanghai. Of the 1 million households living in these buildings, nearly 40 percent of residents are 60 or older, the city's housing authority said.