Solar power in China

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2007
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Cumulative installed PV capacity in gigawatts since 2007

China is the world's largest market for both photovoltaics and solar thermal energy. Since 2013 China has been the world's leading installer of solar photovoltaics (PV). In 2015, China became the world's largest producer of photovoltaic power, narrowly surpassing Germany.[1][2][3] In 2017 China was the first country to pass 100 GW of cumulative installed PV capacity,[4][5] and by the end of 2018, it had 174 GW of cumulative installed solar capacity.[6] As of May 2018, China holds the record for largest operational solar project in its 1,547-MW project at Tengger.[7] The contribution to the total electric energy production remains modest[8] as the average capacity factor of solar power plants is relatively low at 17% on average. Of the 6,412 TWh electricity produced in China in 2017,[9] 118.2 TWh was generated by solar power, equivalent to 1.84% of total electricity production[9]. The goal for 2050 is to reach 1,300 GW of solar capacity. If this goal is to be reached it would be the source with the largest installed capacity in China.[10]

Solar water heating is also extensively implemented, with a total installed capacity of 290 GWth at the end of 2014, representing about 70% of world's total installed solar thermal capacity.[11][12]

History[edit]

According to plans unveiled by the National Development and Reform Commission in 2007, China's installed solar capacity was to grow to 1,800 MW by 2020.[13] However already in 2009, Wang Zhongying, a Commission official, mentioned at a solar energy conference in Shanghai that the plan might be exceeded several-fold, with the installed capacity possibly reaching as much as 10 GW by 2020.[13]

A part of Gansu Dunhuang Solar Park(10MW, Solar PV)

In 2010 a new feed-in tariff was introduced. Projects completed before 30 September 2012 received 1.15 yuan ($0.18) per kWh.[14] Since then, solar power deployment vastly exceeded initial government plans. The 200 MW Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park was completed in 2011, the world's largest solar farm at the time. There were many other solar farms in Golmud, totaling 570 MW at the end of 2011, with another 500 MW expected in 2012. The Qinghai province, which contains Golmud, was leading China in solar installations.[15]

The Chinese PV production system faced severe external shocks since 2010. A sharp recession in the global demand due to institutional alterations in the German market in 2010, followed by anti-dumping duties and anti-subsidy countervailing duties on Chinese PV products enforced in both USA and EU.[5] Chinese PV manufacturers, which were already running at full capacity, faced a difficult situation in 2011 and 2012 with huge financial losses that led to the bankruptcy of some important companies, such as SunTech Power in 2013 which defaulted on $541 million of convertible bonds.[5] To rescue the huge PV industry with its large labor market and assets, a comprehensive set of policies was introduced by the Chinese government mainly to stimulate the domestic market. Accordingly, the annual installed capacity in China experienced notable growth since 2011. This growth was mainly due to the construction of several PV power plants around the country.

In May 2011, the National People's Congress (NPC) revised the solar target again, setting 5 GW as an official minimum PV target for 2015, with a longer-term target of 20–30 GW by 2020.[16] According to a 2012 forecast by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, the total installed capacity was predicted to reach between 47 GW and 66 GW by 2017.[17]:p. 35

In May 2014, the National Development and Reform Commission announced that the solar capacity target had been increased, to 70 GW by 2017.[18] In October 2014 China planned to install 100 GW of solar power—along with 200 GW of wind, 350 GW of hydro and 58 GW of nuclear power by 2020.[19] Market research firm NPD Group forecast that China would have over 100 GW of PV capacity by 2018.[20] In October 2015, China's National Energy Administration (NEA) set an ambitious 23.1 GW target for 2015, upgrading its previous target of 17.8 GW from March 2015, which was already more than the global PV capacity installed in 2010.[21] At that time, China planned to install 150 GW of solar power by 2020,[22] an increase of 50 GW compared to the 2020-target announced in October 2014.[19]

The goal set by the Chinese authorities of 105 GW solar capacity for the year 2020 was passed in July 2017. China installed 43 GW of solar power in the first nine months of 2017, already above the 34.5 GW target for the whole year. This caused the Chinese Government to more than double the original target to 213 GW for 2020.[23] CCB International Securities Ltd. raised its forecast for China's solar power capacity to 55 gigawatts from 40 gigawatts for 2018.[24] Of the 6,412 TWh electricity produced in China in 2017,[25] 118.2 TWh was generated by solar power, equivalent to 1.84% of total electricity production.[9]

Solar resources[edit]

Global Horizontal Irradiation in China.[26]

A July 2019 report found that local air pollution (black carbon and sulfur dioxide) has decreased the available solar energy that can be harnessed today by up to 15% compared to the 1960s.[27]

Solar photovoltaics[edit]

Photovoltaics
Year Capacity (MW) Installed/yr
1999 16
2000 19 3
2001 23.5 4.5
2002 42 8.5
2003 52 10
2004 62 10
2005 70 8
2006 80 10
2007 100 20
2008 140 40
2009 300 160
2010 800 500
2011 3,300 2,500
2012 4,198 898
2013 16,137 12,119
2014 28,050 11,733
2015 43,180 15,130
2016 77,420 34,240
2017 130,200 52,780
2018 174,460 44,260
2019 204,680 30,220
Sources: IEA for years up to and incl 2011[28][29]; China National Energy Administration for data from 2012 onwards[30][31][32][33][34][35][36]

Solar PV by province[edit]

A large part of the solar power capacity installed in China is in the form of large PV power plants in the west of the country, an area much less populated than the eastern part but with better solar resources and available land.

Installed solar PV capacity by province[37][38][39]
Province MW end of 2015 MW end of 2016 MW end of 2017 MW end of 2018
China total 43,170 77,420 130,200 174,460
Xinjiang 4,060 8,620 9,470 9,920
Gansu 6,100 6,860 7,840 8,280
Qinghai 5,640 6,820 7,910 9,560
Inner Mongolia 4,880 6,370 7,430 9,450
Jiangsu 4,220 5,460 9,070 13,320
Ningxia 3,080 5,260 6,200 8,160
Shandong 1,330 4,450 10,520 13,610
Hebei 2,390 4,430 8,680 12,340
Anhui 1,210 3,450 8,880 11,180
Zhejiang 1,640 3,380 8,410 11,380
Shaanxi 1,170 3,340 5,240 7,160
Shanxi 1,140 2,970 5,910 8,460
Henan 410 2,840 7,030 9,910
Jiangxi 440 2,280 4,500 5,360
Yunnan 640 2,080 2,330 3,430
Hubei 480 1,870 4,140 5,100
Guangdong 640 1,560 3,310 5,270
Sichuan 370 960 1,340 1,810
Tianjin 120 600 680 1,280
Jilin 60 560 1,590 2,650
Liaoning 170 520 2,230 3,020
Guizhou 30 460 1,370 1,780
Shanghai 200 350 580 890
Hainan 240 340 320 1,360
Tibet Autonomous Region 170 330 790 980
Hunan 290 300 1,760 2,920
Fujian 150 270 920 1,480
Beijing 160 240 250 400
Guangxi 120 180 690 1,240
Heilongjiang 20 170 940 2,150
Chongqing 5 5 130 430

Solar PV by type[edit]

PV installations by sector, 2018[40]
Sector Annual MW Cumulative MW
Power Plant 23,300 123,730
Distributed 20,960 51,250
Off-grid 360
Total 44,260 175,340

In 2018 23,300 MW of utility scale power plant installations were added bring the cumulative total in this sector to 123,730 MW of power. Distributed installations rose by almost as much during 2018 at 20,960 MW bringing the cumulative total in the sector to 51,250 MW by year end 2018. Off-grid solar was the smallest component in 2018 with just 360 MW cumulatively installed.

Manufacturers[edit]

Data on the world's largest solar PV producers, including China, Taiwan, US, Japan, and Germany

China has been the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels since 2008 and, since 2011, has produced the majority of global photovoltaics on an annualized basis.[41] Industry projections estimated that, by the end of 2017, China would have enough manufacturing capacity to produce 51 GW of PV modules per year, an amount over twice as large as 2010's global production of 24 GW.[42][43]

The industry is dominated by several major manufacturers. They include CHINT Group Corporation, JA Solar Holdings, Jinniu Energy, Suntech Power, Yingli, China Sunergy and Hanwha SolarOne.[44][45] Large debt challenges several manufacturers.[46]

Concentrated solar power[edit]

China has large potential for concentrated solar power (CSP), especially in the south-western part of the country.[47] The highest daily mean values of direct normal radiation are found in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Sichuan Basin, at 9 kWh/m2. Most of northern and western China has daily average direct normal radiation over 5 kWh/m2, considered the limit for economical use of CSP.[47] Practical limitations for deployment of CSP include mountainous terrain and distance from energy load centers, mostly concentrated in the east.[47]

The 12th five-year plan, for 2011 to 2015, called for the installation of 1,000 MW by 2015, and 3,000 MW of CSP plants by 2020.[48] However, at the end of 2014, only 14 MW of CSP was operational in the country.[47]

Plants planned or under construction:[48]

  • 1 MW Badaling Pilot Project — collaboration between the Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEE) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
  • 12 MW (short term) / 300-MW (long term) project — collaboration between Xinjiang Qingsong Building Materials and Chemicals (Group) Co. and Guodian Xinjiang Company
  • 50 MW project in Tibet by Huaneng Tibet Company
  • 100 MW project in Sichuan Abazhou by Tianwei New Energy (Aba)
  • 50 MW (TBD) by China Huadian Corporation
  • 100 MW project in Golmud by GD ENERGY
  • 100 MW project in Ningxia by Beijing Control Technology Co. Ltd
  • 100 MW project (TBD) by Avic Xi’an Aero-Engine (Group) Ltd
  • 100 MW project (TBD) by Guangdong Kangda
  • 100 MW in Gansu by SETC Tianjin
  • 1,000 MW in Qinghai by Lion International Investment Ltd.
  • 2,000 MW in Shaanxi by Shandong Penglai Dianli and eSolar

Solar water heating[edit]

Rooftop solar water heaters are ubiquitous in China
New solar hot water installations during 2007, worldwide

China is the leading country for solar water heating capacity in the world, with 290 GWth in operation at the end of 2014, accounting for about 70% of the total world capacity. In terms of capacity per unit of population, China comes 7th in the world with 213 kWth per 1,000 people. Most of the installed capacity (92%) was evacuated tube water heaters.[12]

Government incentives[edit]

Controversy[edit]

China is a large producer of polysilicon, for use in first generation solar cells around the world. A byproduct of the process is poisonous silicon tetrachloride, which is normally processed and recycled at a higher cost in the developed world, but often dumped by Chinese green startups,[49] With proper recycling the polysilicon would cost $84,500 per tonne, but the Chinese companies are making it at $21,000 to $56,000 a ton.[49]

Zhejiang Jinko Solar Co., Ltd., founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of Hong Kong-invested JinkoSolar Holding Co, Ltd (NYSE Stock Code: JKS), produces solar panel photovoltaic cells and wafers. It employs more than 10,000 professionals in two factories in east China and has offshore offices and warehouse in the United States and Europe, according to the company website (www.jinkosolar.com). On Thursday, 15 September 2011, more than 500 people from Hongxiao Village protested over the large-scale death of fish in a nearby river. Angry protesters stormed the factory compound, overturned eight company vehicles, and destroyed the offices before police came to disperse the crowd. Protests continued on the two following nights with reports of scuffle, officials said. Chen Hongming, a deputy head of Haining's environmental protection bureau, said the factory's waste disposal had failed the pollution tests since April. The environmental watchdog has warned the factory but it had not effectively controlled the pollution, Chen added.[50]

The Chinese government subsidies for solar energy (PV) have been described as "unsustainable" (although reduced in 2017)[51] and are sometimes paid late to generating companies. Much of the solar power generating capacity has been built in the relatively less populated west of China whereas the major electricity consumption areas (such as Shanghai and Beijing) are in the east causing difficulties and expense in transferring the energy between regions with curtailment rates of 30% or more reported in 2017.[51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]