China on verge of reaching 10,000 megawatts of solar PV capacity

China, which had a 2015 solar PV target of just 5,000 megawatts a couple years ago, is about to pass the 10,000 megawatt marker.

In early 2011, China had a 2015 solar PV capacity target of 5,000 megawatts (MW). In June of 2011, it raised that target to 10,000 MW. In July of 2012, it more than doubled that 2015 target, bringing it up to about 21,000 MW. But it wasn’t yet through raising its solar PV growth goals. In September of 2012, China raised its 2015 target to 35,000 MW!

The changing targets were surely due in part to the rapid drop in the price of solar PV modules in recent years. It also reportedly came about through a stronger concern for environmental protection amongst the leaders of China, something that has been triggered by severe pollution problems within the country as well as growing concerns regarding global warming.

Well, it’s clear now that China wasn’t bluffing with at least some of those solar PV target updates. The country is on the verge of hitting 10,000 megawatts of solar PV capacity, according to China’s National Energy Administration (NEA). The agency says it will hit that capacity by the end of 2013.

That is double China’s 2015 target from just about 2½ years ago, and it’s the 2015 target that it upgraded to in the middle of 2011.

What is 10,000 MW (or 10 GW) in the context of China’s overall electricity grid? Well, it’s still still under 1% of the country’s grid capacity, but it is climbing. Total on-grid solar PV power capacity in the country grew about 200% in the past year. Solar market analyst NPD Solarbuzz has reported that China’s solar PV capacity will likely climb another 12 GW in 2014.

Right now, about 70% of the country’s power capacity comes from thermal power, about 25% from hydropower, about 6% from wind power, and about 1% from nuclear power. The grid’s entire capacity is up to about 1,235 GW.

Historically, China has focused on pushing through large-scale solar projects, but in July of this year it announced notable subsidies for “small-scale,” distributed solar projects no larger than 6 MW in capacity. The subsidy for these projects is CNY0.42/kWh, or about US$0.07/kWh. In addition to this subsidy, the Chinese government is also exempting small-scale solar PV projects from grid connection fees, waiving government approval requirements, and conducting some pilot projects aimed at advancing the rollout of decentralized, small-scale solar power. The 12 GW of new solar PV power capacity anticipated to go on line by the end of 2014 are expected to be comprised of 8 GW of distributed solar projects and 4 GW of larger, ground-mounted solar projects.

China seems to be on track for the 35 GW of total solar power capacity it has targeted for the end of 2015. However, after so many increases to the target, I keep waiting for yet another.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Zachary Shahan, editor of CleanTechnica and Planetsave. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of ABB or its employees.

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About the author

Zachary Shahan

I'm the director of the CleanTechnica and Planetsave news sites. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. I'm also the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity.
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