Inside Yingli, the Giant Chinese Solar Company Sponsoring the World Cup

A journalistic collaboration on climate change.
July 13 2014 12:13 PM

Inside Yingli

Behind the logos on the World Cup sidelines, a solar-panel manufacturer is trying to change the world. 

149187353-team-of-bayern-muenchen-celebrates-winning-the-yingli
BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 24: Team of Bayern Muenchen celebrates winning the Yingli cup after the pre-season friendly match between Beijing Guo'an and Bayern Muenchen at Beijing Workers Stadium on July 24, 2012 in Beijing, China.(Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

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'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.

Climate desk logo.

James West is a producer for the Climate Desk.

Jaeah Lee is the associate interactive producer at Mother Jones.​

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