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Page added on January 30, 2014

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China May Have Deployed More Solar in 2013 Alone Than America Has Installed Altogether

Alternative Energy

China has the fastest train in the world, the most megacities in the world, and the biggest population.

Now China can boast a new record: It has installed the most solar PV in one year.

Preliminary figures released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) show that China installed 12,000 megawatts of solar in 2013 — beating Germany’s record of 8,000 megawatts in 2010.

These figures merit a major caveat, however. China is a very tough country to track and estimates differ significantly. China’s Renewable Energy Industries Association puts its preliminary estimate between 9,500 megawatts and 10,660 megawatts. GTM Research has not released its figures yet; it’s waiting for a final number on actual grid connections.

The range of projections varies, but they all tell the same story: China’s domestic solar market is now a major force.

In comparison, the booming U.S. market just surpassed 10,000 megawatts of cumulative installations last year, with around 4,200 megawatts deployed in 2013. That’s a big deal for America, as it’s the first time in fifteen years that the country has put up more solar PV than Germany, the historical global leader.

However, if BNEF’s estimates are accurate, the U.S. only completed around a quarter of the installations that China was able to build last year.

As developers rushed to secure a feed-in tariff set to scale back at the close of December, the market surged in the fourth quarter. BNEF speculates that the installation count could potentially rise to 14,000 megawatts.

But there’s a big difference between installations and actual grid connection. The “vast majority” of Chinese projects were large-scale installations connected to the transmission network. Since China’s grid has been notoriously troublesome for the wind industry, it’s unclear how many solar projects are facing the same interconnection problems. That could skew the numbers once everything is counted.

“These installation figures also highlight the growing gap between installations and connections in China, with connections reaching 3.6 gigawatts as of October,” said Adam James, a global demand analyst with GTM Research. “Grid connection continues to be an issue, although we see the country’s shift to production-based incentives as a step in the right direction for encouraging generation and not just capacity.”

In order to alleviate grid bottlenecks, the Chinese government has turned its attention to promoting rooftop solar with a $0.07 per kilowatt-hour incentive for distributed projects. Rooftop projects will also get a bonus payment of $0.03 to $0.06 for offsetting sulfur emissions from coal plants.

In recent years, China has been known mostly for its heavily subsidized fleet of zombie solar factories, rather than its solar installation market. But a shift is underway. The Chinese government recently announced that it will scale back support for nearly 400 domestic solar manufacturers, keeping 134 companies on its survival list. That could shake loose some of the surplus production capacity and help level out the market as the country’s domestic demand for installations grows.

Together, China and booming Japan are putting the Asia-Pacific region far in the lead for installations. As this chart from GTM Research shows, Europe has lost the dominant position that it held for many years.

“The recent installation figures projected for China are the first tangible evidence of the profound eastward shift in global demand,” said James. “This is an unprecedented figure for annual installations, even compared to the days of lucrative European incentives.”

Green Tech Media



22 Comments on "China May Have Deployed More Solar in 2013 Alone Than America Has Installed Altogether"

  1. rollin on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 4:02 am 

    China has 1100 GW of electric production which makes it comparable to the US> 12 GW installed PV about 1 percent of total(actually less since it is intermittent). Considering China wants to double its power generation by 2030, PV had better get installed at 30 or more GW per year to make a significant contribution.

  2. Northwest Resident on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 4:38 am 

    rollin — How long will that PV last before it has to be replaced? I wonder how much that 1100 GW cost? Do you know?

  3. rollin on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 5:02 am 

    “China has the fastest train in the world, the most megacities in the world, and the biggest population”

    I don’t see anything positive in these statements.

  4. rollin on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 5:13 am 

    NWR, your questions seem to confuse two different values. The PV costs about 45 cents a watt for the panels and about 40 years to 85% production capacity.
    As far as that 1100 GW, most are coal fired plants and constantly need coal to be trucked to them. They not only have their initial build costs, maintenance costs, but have huge external costs to the people and environment. Probably in total they are the most expensive energy in the world.

    What I do know is what the PV panels do not do. They do not make smog, CO2, noise, mercury poisoning, radiation or need trucks or railroads to constantly feed them. They don’t destroy lungs or cause global dimming.

    They just sit there quietly producing electricity when sunlight strikes them.

  5. Northwest Resident on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 5:46 am 

    rollin — I believe I read that typically PV has about a 30-year lifespan. After that time, they need to be replaced. I was just wondering if that’s your understanding too. If that is true, then it means China (and everybody else) will have to replace their Pvs in 30 years or so. I just wonder if in 30 years from now we will still have the industry and economy that is needed to mine the minerals, ship to factory and produce another batch of PV to replace the old PV.

  6. rollin on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 6:00 am 

    NWR, typical is 40 years as I stated and even then they produce about 85% of original output. Typical life of a coal plant is 50 years and they need a complete rebuild or replacement.

    Mining sand is not a big deal. If we are still using electricity by then, we will probably be able to produce PV’s and probably a lot better and cheaper.
    If the industry is gone, the appliances, motors and light bulbs will be gone too. No need for electricity then, so a moot point. Back to sailing ships, horses and candles. Internet gone too. Hello to all those diseases we got rid of and a fractured world.

  7. DC on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 7:55 am 

    Question then, have any of these solar installations made any material difference to the situation China finds itself in, any at all?

  8. Arthur on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 10:12 am 

    How long will that PV last before it has to be replaced? I wonder how much that 1100 GW cost? Do you know?

    25-30 years.

    The cost of a solar panel is mostly labor cost. Cheap labor is abundant in China. 12 GW, that’s almost 1 kwh per capita. That’s really impressive, a few more years like that and the average private electricity consumption is covered. But the real development is taking place in Germany: 8 GW per 80, not 1300, million people. I drove through Bavaria recently, on my way to Vienna, and I was astounded by what I saw: most of the farm houses and small business have their roofs covered with panels, and not the lousy 12 250W panels I am about to order for 6000 euro, but 150-300 panels. And many, many private households have them as well as well. In Bavaria, solar panels are no longer the exception and it is a matter of a few more years until every tilted square meter will be covered.

  9. mo on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 1:30 pm 

    I drove thru bavaria and lots of central Germany in 2010 and most farm houses and barns were already covered with solar, lots and lots of wind farms also with many trucks hauling giant windmill blades down the hiway. It makes me wonder what the hell were doing wrong here in the us

  10. foxv on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 3:02 pm 

    PV’s are not miracle solution they would seem on paper.

    For one thing a grid supported by solar cells has a huge control issue. With every cloud that passes overhead the system needs to be rebalanced. The solution is then batteries, but they have their problems as well.

    And something not discussed, a small bit of haze really cuts a panel’s out put. With the smog around china, 85% output is a pipe dream. Then there’s the problem of tarnish and oxidizing of the plastic face in all that pollution.

    PV’s are a nice hobbyist idea, but the wide scale real world problems just go on and on

  11. Makati1 on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 4:03 pm 

    Panels will NOT last 25-30 years. Few will even be 85% efficient at 10 years. And the converter is only going to last 10 years max. Get your facts from non-manufacturers and not sales pitches. The MPG on the new car sticker is under perfect conditions and not typical use. Same for anything else in the world today.

    rollin, you better do some goofgle research on the manufacturing of solar panels. The only sand is in the glas cover and it is heat treated (tempered) but the real cost is the layer underneath the glass, and the converter to make it useful for things other than 12V camping gear. That is also not going to be made locally from local materials.

  12. Kenz300 on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 4:05 pm 

    The price of oil, coal and nuclear keeps rising and causing environmental damage.

    The price of wind and solar keep dropping and they are safe and clean.

    The transition to safer, cleaner and cheaper alternative energy sources continues to grow around the world………………

  13. Makati1 on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 4:11 pm 

    BTW: rollin, go and visit a glass making plant and see if it is easy to do. The one I saw is PPG’s float glass plant and it is an energy dense process. Try melting sand in your oven. The temp needed to melt sand into glass is over 3,000F. (Manganese steel is melted at 2,000F)

    Glass of any quality will disappear with the end of hydrocarbons. Look at the panes of original glass in old, pre-coal windows and you will see that it is not anything like the clear windows needed for solar.

  14. Arthur on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 5:33 pm 

    Panels will NOT last 25-30 years.

    http://deepresource.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/low-degredation-of-solar-cells-over-time/

    PV’s are a nice hobbyist idea, but the wide scale real world problems just go on and on

    The world wide adoption of solar is progressing in rapid pace and you think it is all for naught? In the long run it is all we have got, incl. solar derivative wind. What is needed is large scale hydro storage to filter out fluctuations in supply and demand. Than the world of energy mode can go in the maintenance mode for ever, maybe by the end of the century.

  15. Arthur on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 5:34 pm 

    go and visit a glass making plant and see if it is easy to do. The one I saw is PPG’s float glass plant and it is an energy dense process. Try melting sand in your oven. The temp needed to melt sand into glass is over 3,000F. (Manganese steel is melted at 2,000F)

    One day Africa is going to be big in glass producing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lG1GfKVoYE

  16. robertinget on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 10:17 pm 

    My eight point five KW grid tie system is warranted for 30 years, INverters for ten. The same system installed five years ago has seen a 10% utility rate increase.
    While my system can now be replicated for roughly half its $40,000
    original cost. Often overlooked is the
    comfort of having silent power during blackouts in our rural community. Do any of you ‘solar skeptics’ really believe rates will remain stable for the next three decades? I’m certain my costs will.
    Oh, BTW, Canadian oil company dividends
    paid for everything.

    AS for obsolescence. My plan is to build yet another home on my farm to house my caregiver. I’ll move the 8.5 K panels to
    that especially situated rooftop and replace with a 10K system taking up only slightly more space. But never mind that.
    What most of you are missing is the hybrid solar plants sprouting up nation, worldwide.

    http://www.firstsolar.com/Our-Solutions/UtilityScaleGeneration

    Solar PV is now cheaper than coal and diesel. Why I’ve sold off most oils but not gas bags. Lately, moving slowly into into fertilizers and solar which I believe will be more profitable long term.

  17. robertinget on Thu, 30th Jan 2014 10:33 pm 

    Oh, one more thing. One point five mile long coal train is made up of 54 ton cars that will last that utility perhaps three hours each. Coal trains are powered by diesel fuel often NOT computed in coal’s pollution costs.

  18. GregT on Fri, 31st Jan 2014 1:13 am 

    “If the industry is gone, the appliances, motors and light bulbs will be gone too. No need for electricity then, so a moot point. Back to sailing ships, horses and candles. Internet gone too. Hello to all those diseases we got rid of and a fractured world.”

    And here we have the reality of the situation. What are we planning on using all of this electricity for? While I completely agree, that PV, wind, and hydro power are excellent transitional electric power generation sources. What good will they be when there is no industry left to build all of the stuff that we need the electricity for?

    It is not a question of what is cheaper, it is a question of necessity. We will need food, and electricity will not grow our food for us. Anyone who believes our future will be spent in air-conditioned home offices, working service sector jobs over the internet, really hasn’t thought things through. We are going to lose our personal energy slaves, and without them, we will be returning to the days of hard manual labour.

  19. Makati1 on Fri, 31st Jan 2014 2:02 am 

    robertinget, a warranty is not worth the paper it is written on. Try to collect in 15 years when the company is not even in existence anymore. If it is all you have to do is ship the panel back to the manufacturer in China ans they will repair it and ship it back to you COD. THAT is what a warranty is worth today. Zero. I bet you even paid for the warranty as an added cost.

  20. simonr on Fri, 31st Jan 2014 9:20 am 

    Makati, Warranties are not calculated on the presumed lifespan of the company, but on the lifespan of the article.

  21. rollin on Fri, 31st Jan 2014 1:00 pm 

    Troll Makakibill does not understand the concept of solar cell degeneration, at 30 years they will be between 70% and 85% productive. Still producing electricity long after most here are gone. PV is going up all around me, mostly medium sized fields, statewide a gigawatt a year. Far faster than China on a relative size or population basis.

    I wonder how China fairs with wind power, they certainly will need it when the Aussie coal starts to deplete. Looks like Australian coal production is sloping off while there is a large reduction in internal coal consumption.

  22. Arthur on Fri, 31st Jan 2014 2:59 pm 

    Ridiculous to call Bill a ‘troll’.

    I wonder how China fairs with wind power

    Neighboring Mongolia has one of the best wind resources on earth, more than enough to cover China’s current energy needs.

    http://deepresource.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/first-mongolian-wind-farm/

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