Day 6. Beijing. Thursday 25th Oct.

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Woke up at 6.30am, threw on my running gear and headed off for a long run around the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The temperature was a lot cooler than South China. Probably about 12c which is perfect for running. I got to the North side (the back gate) of the Forbidden City right on sunrise. It reminded me very much of a newer and more colorful version of Angkor Watt - but much smaller. Having said that the Forbidden City was still huge. I ran as close as possible to the moated walls but there were many buildings (hotels, etc) being built around it so I had to veer away to nearby streets. I didn't bring any money and didn't intend to go inside but took a wrong turn and realized all of a sudden I WAS inside! The entrance guards didn't notice me... So rather than go back and perhaps get in trouble I thought I may as well keep going (and get in trouble). I ran through the main inner-courtyard avoiding anyone in uniform. What a thrill! The main (South) gate opens up to Tiananmen Square and I ran out to bright pollution-free sunshine and thousands of mainly Chinese tourists. By the time I got to the other end of the Square I'd been running 40 minutes - I didn't plan on SUCH a long run, but couldn't bring myself to cut it short either! Tiananmen Square itself felt heavy with history. It actually felt a little disrespectful to be a western jogger flicking through.

The run back was quicker. I ran alongside bike riders on their way to work. It was 8.00am by the time I ran through the alleyway network and into my hotel.

After breakfast Maggie from KLNE picked me up. Again - a smart, perfect-English and ultra-friendly young lady with a non-English speaking driver.

I learned on the way to the KLNE office that unlike the other companies I'd visited, the KLNE factory was not the head office. We were going to a business precinct rather than an industrial area.

I soon learned why Keppel purchases from KLNE. The office was very well run with a diverse workforce, including several ex-pat westerners to deal with customers from their countries of origin. Maggie lead me around the entire office and introduced almost everyone. We then went into a meeting room where I met and spoke at length with Wison, KLNE's Vice President. The talk was similar to other companies. I stressed what was happening in Australia and the growing importance of energy storage. The talk spilled into lunch, where they took me to the best traditional Beijing restaurants for Beijing Duck that they knew of. We also ate Chili Donkey and Chili Frog. As expected the restaurant was excellent and the food delicious. And yes I ate it all.

The meeting was good, but there were a few technical questions that we needed resolving. So the plan after lunch was for me to workshop for as long as required with the head of KLNE's R&D team and a young engineer with a background in batteries. Maggie would translate, and Wison left us to it. We spent three hours going through everything in detail and I learned a lot! Actually I think they learned a few things as well, mainly about Australian electricity consumer behaviors! And they were very grateful to hear about the changing requirements out in our marketplace.

The big questions were - what capacity and specification should the batteries have to be the best balance between a surplus of energy in summer and very low solar periods in winter, and what kind of intelligence would be needed from the controller. The answer was my original estimation which was very good to have confirmed. And the intelligence required looked like being slightly less than I thought might be required which was also good.

To elaborate, I didn't think summer would be a problem as a battery meter could easily tell when the batteries were full and switch over to grid export. What I was worried about was very low periods in winter where if too much battery capacity was used, the batteries may be depleted for long periods of time and how to cope with that. Should power be taken from the grid at night to recharge? And if so what would be the trigger for the recharge - it could not simply be based on a low voltage level, as this would mean the batteries may be grid-charged every night and turn the panels back into export focused. The answer was simple. When idle, a typical battery will lose approximately 3% per month, so if a Depth of Discharge (DOD) was to be 30% for example, it could in fact be set to 3% higher (which would mean slightly less energy storage for a given size) and have a full month of no recharging before going below the intended DOD. Even in winter a full month of zero recharging is very unlikely.

But the bottom line for us was that even though the R&D guys now knew what was needed for us, KLNE could not produce the controllers needed until 2014 at the earliest. We were all disappointed with this realization and the head of R&D urged me to take it up with his management to allow R&D to prioritize what we needed.

I had an immediate follow-up meeting with Wison who basically said he already knew this and that KNLE would outsource the controllers until they began producing their own in 2014/2015. He was very happy and confident it would work well, and was happy with the results of the meeting. Good!

We took a heap of photos and then Maggie went back into customer-service mode by organizing everything I could think of, like my fast train ticket to Shanghai, etc.

KLNE really are a great company, and I'm happy to say they're very likely to be able to continue being a major equipment supplier for us.

I was driven back to my hotel in incredibly, oppressively thick pollution and headed off for dinner on my own. I'm not sure it I should write this, but the night itself became a bit of an unplanned bender. I met a friendly local ex-pat rock group of two Germans, an Englishman, American, and a Chinese lady - who were about to play their first ever gig. I was invited to come along for the ride, and went to a hidden local venue that was soon packed to the rafters with locals and other ex-pats. The music was great - a blend of German indie music with a heavy influence of Southern Blues.

After the reasonably short gig everyone went home even though it was only 11.30pm. I was still keen to check out Beijing so went into another bar and immediately got absorbed into a group consisting of people from England, Iran, the US, Pakistan and... Australia. We were given free drinks through the night by a very drunk French barman. Things turned into a group discussion of World politics, climate change, and all the highs and lows of being an ex-pat in China. The bar closed at 5am and we stumbled out into the frosty silent Beijing night air, wished each other a good life, and headed off to our respective homes/hotels. I deliberately walked around an extra few city blocks, not wanting to get to my hotel too quickly.

Another really great day (and night). Bed at 5.30am.


Day 7. Beijing - Shanghai. Friday 26th Oct. >>