James West is the editor and producer of The Climate Desk, a collaboration among The Atlantic, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, Mother Jones, Slate, Wired, and PBS. He is the author of Beijing Blur.
You’ve seen their logos on the sidelines, now get a peek inside the company trying to transform the world.
It takes about two hours by car from the Chinese capital Beijing to get to the smog-blanketed city of Baoding. I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s nothing much to speak of, typical of the Northeast part of the country's expanse of industrial wastelands, threaded together by super-highways.
So we were surprised to find that Baoding—where air pollution registers at hazardous levels for more than a quarter of the year—was also home to the sprawling campus of the world’s top solar panel manufacturer, Yingli. We had landed, it seemed, in the very epicenter of China’s clean tech revolution. After weeks of negotiations, my colleague Jaeah Lee and I were finally granted access to film this exclusive footage at Yingli’s headquarters in the fall of 2013. What awaited inside blew our socks off: acres of high-tech solar wizardry attended to by an impressive fleet of skilled workers, and an understandably boastful management.
In the video above, we take you behind-the-scenes of Yingli, and put a face to the name you’ve been seeing in the background of World Cup games: In 2010, Yingli became the first renewable energy company, and the first Chinese company, to partner with the tournament.