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Across China: Solar generators power Xinjiang herders' move to summer pastures

  URUMQI, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Each summer, Harin Apalahon travels with his family and friends to a pasture 80 km away from their village to herd livestock.

  The pasture is located in the Pamir Plateau with an altitude of more than 3,000 meters in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The grass there is rich, and the sky is bright blue; however, it's too remote a location for electricity cables to reach.

  For years, Apalahon and his fellow herders had to make do with no electricity on the summer pasture. "Herding life was tedious in the past," said Apalahon, "we had to use kerosene lamps or candles for lighting."

  In 2005, considering the sufficient sunlight in the mountainous region, Apalahon bought a small solar generator for 600 yuan (around 89 U.S. dollars) to get electricity.

  However, the generator could only power two light bulbs for three to four hours.

  In 2014, the local government entrusted Huaneng Xinjiang Energy Development Co. Ltd. to supply electricity to 2,817 households living in the mountainous areas of Akqi County.

  Apalahon's family was among those who received a portable solar generator as well as basic training from the company on how to use and maintain the equipment.

  "Each set of equipment cost nearly 10,000 yuan, and is designed to be used for 20 years," said He Yi, who heads the company's branch in Akqi, "Herders can use it to power their television, fridge, and lights."

  The increased electricity has given Apalahon's life at the summer pasture more freedom, and more income as well.

  Apalahon bought a washing machine to bring with him each summer to the pasture, not for washing clothes, but for fermenting horse milk.

  In the past, his family made around 40 to 50 kilograms of horse milk per day. They used a heavy wooden stick to stir the milk in a sheepskin bag to ferment it.

  "We had to stir it for thousands or even tens of thousands of times to speed up the fermentation," said Apalahon, "With this slow method, we could barely make enough for ourselves."

  Now the family uses the washing machine to complete the process. With the new method, they can make more than 60 to 70 kilograms of fermented horse milk a day and sell it at 10 yuan per kilogram.

  "Last summer, we made 40,000 yuan from selling fermented horse milk," Apalahon said.