Five soccer fields of solar cells installed in China per day, for 2011

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Feature Story - 2011-11-11
1.8 GW of solar electricity (PV) is expected to be installed this year in China. The area of solar cells installed will equal five soccer fields a day, more than tripling from last year. Feed-in tariffs for this year's installations are 130 EUR/MWh (1.15 CNY/kWh) and for next year 114 EUR/MWh. Project costs are reported to be around 1400 EUR/kW (12 CNY/W) and decreasing. These are cost levels that many studies assumed would take until the 2020s to reach! Meanwhile grid parity is expected in some provinces already in 2013. There are a total of 16 GW of non-residential projects in the pipeline.

A solar photovoltaic-wind hybrid power station in Jiangsu.


More at Solarbuzz on this report:

Solarbuzz has identified 1,104 non-residential projects in China that are installed, being installed, or in development. Projects in the pipeline are located in 29 Chinese provinces. Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, and Inner Mongolia are the leading provinces in megawatt terms, followed by Sichuan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shaanxi, Tibet and Anhui. These 10 provinces represent 86% of the total pipeline.

According to the report, 195 projects, with a total capacity of over 1.8 GW, will be installed within 2011. That installed capacity in China will closely match the installed capacity in the US this year. Stimulated by the Qinghai 930 program as well as unified national feed-in tariff (FIT) policy, 54% of the capacity in megawatt terms will be located in the northwest region. The top seven project developer groups account for nearly 1 GW of PV demand in 2011, including state-owned enterprises China Power Investment Corporation, China Guodian Corporation, China Huadian Corporation, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corporation, and China Energy Conservation & Environmental Protection Group. The CHINT Group is the only private enterprise among the top seven developers.

"China's FIT rates—1.15 CNY/kWh in 2011 and 1.0 CNY/kWh for 2012—used to be considered so low that project development activities have been mostly limited to high solar radiation regions such as Golmud," said Ray Lian, Analyst at Solarbuzz. "However, system prices fell so fast in 2011 that project profitability has been improved to reasonable levels in other locations."

Greenpeace East Asia communications officer Catherine Fitzpatrick had this to say:

Sitting in the pea-soup like pollution of Beijing, it is sometimes hard to believe the clean energy revolution is happening faster than many of us could ever have imagined.

Yet day after day those of us working in China are seeing the evidence. This year alone, 1.8 gigawatts of solar electricity (PV) will be installed in China. That is 1,800 MW which would power around 700,000 homes in the UK. In China, where household electricity consumption is lower, it probably means more than 1 million Chinese homes will now be powered by clean solar electricity instead of polluting coal.

And the cost of solar electricity in some provinces compared to conventional technologies such as coal-fired power stations is expected to be the same by 2013 - technically, we say that it has reached "grid parity" which is a reason to celebrate! Once renewable energy such as wind and solar is cheaper than coal, an important barrier for their rapid development has fallen away.

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