Groundbreaking US-Chinese Tech Cooperation in April

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by Melissa Newcomb
China is turning increasingly to clean energy, as shown by solar panels outside Hong Kong. Image: WiNG, Wikimedia.

On April 16th, 2015 Apple and SunPower Corporation announced their partnership to build two solar power projects in Sichuan Province and the Tibet and Qiang Autonomous Prefectures (also known as Aba Prefecture) located in Southwestern China. Upon completion, Apple and Sichuan Shengtian New Energy Development Co, SunPower’s Chinese partner, and will be co-owners. The project is expected to generate 40 megawatts of solar power.  

SunPower has experience working on solar projects with Chinese partners. In December 2012, SunPower worked with Huaxia CPV Power Co to build a solar power generating facility in Inner Mongolia. In October 2014, SunPower announced its second joint venture with multiple partners in China, committing $20 million in investments.

Apple and SunPower have also worked together to increase solar power usage on six projects in California, Nevada, and North Carolina but the project in China is SunPower’s first international project with Apple. As for Apple, the company’s solar power investments will not benefit its operations, but represents a new business model of investing in clean energy domestically and abroad.

In other innovation partnerships, on April 15th the Chinese company Ninebot Inc announced its acquisition of Segway Inc for an undisclosed amount. Segway, based in New Hampshire, was the first to develop the infamous two-wheeled vehicles that are now ubiquitous around popular tourist destinations. Ninebot created its own similar vehicles, and the two companies have a history of trade disputes involving intellectual property. The two companies will maintain separate brands but operate under a “strategic alliance.”

Although Segway vehicles have often been objects of derision in the US, the energy-efficient self-balancing scooters and their spin-offs are popular in China among the police and commuters alike.  

Melissa Newcomb is a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington, D.C.