Those lucky enough to get to China for the Olympics this summer are no doubt going to see some spectacular sights. Well, they will if the Chinese capital's smog doesn't obscure the view.
One of the sights to see looks like going to be what is described as the new Great Wall of China. The GreenPix - Zero Energy Media Wall - aims to spotlight what the future holds for LED display and photovoltaic technologies. GreenPix is a groundbreaking project applying sustainable and digital media technology to the curtain wall of Xicui Entertainment Complex in Beijing, near the site of the 2008 Olympic Games.
OK you may not be able to see it from Space like the original Wall but it is still one of the largest of its kind in the world. Composed of 2,292 color LEDs which cover an area of 2200 m2 the new Wall is also one of the greenest with photovoltaic technology providing the power.
With the support of leading German manufacturers Schueco and SunWays, the New York based architect Giostra and British building engineers Arup created the Zero Energy Media Wall and developed a new technology for laminating photovoltaic cells in a glass curtain wall and oversaw the production of the first glass solar panels by Chinese manufacturer SunTech.
The polycrystalline photovoltaic cells are laminated within the glass of the curtain wall and placed on the entire building's skin. Rather than placing the cells uniformly, they are arranged in changing densities to allow for more natural light to reach the interior, as well as converting excessive solar radiation into energy thus increasing the building's performance.
The Wall is designed to function like an organic system that harvest solar energy. The cells absorb sunlight during the day and then use that energy to generate light during the evening period.
The Zero Energy Media Wall is clearly a showpiece installation but it is symbolic of two of the most important trends of the early 21st century - China's burgeoning economy and the global drive to reduce carbon emissions.
Suntech Power is China's largest photovoltaic manufacturer and since its inception in 2001, the company has grown by more than 100 percent every year. Suntech's founder Shi Zhengrong is known as the world's first solar billionaire.
The interesting point is that all of Suntech's growth so far has come from exports. As much as 98 percent of Suntech's output is exported. Germany is the company's biggest market. This situation is likely to continue until the price of solar energy in China matches the cost of power generated by coal. Most optimistic estimates indicate the tipping point to be around the time of the London Olympics in 2012.
Ironically this year's Olympics may help speed up the process as Beijing's notorious smog problems draw more attention to the impact of global warming and China's dependence on coal and fossil fuels.
Whichever way the politics of power plays out it looks likely that sooner or later Suntech will be on top of the podium in solar cells and solar modules.