China closes out Q4 2014 with solar surge

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Leading module and cell manufacturers in China and Taiwan enjoyed an exceptionally strong end to 2014, according to data published today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

The analysts’ monthly survey shows that leading Chinese PV manufacturers shipped 113% of their nameplate capacity in December, pushing module shipments for the month to 2,172 MW which, allied to November’s 1,972 MW, suggests a strong fourth quarter for China’s Tier-1 solar suppliers.

Chinese cell markers also shipped at 101% nameplate capacity in December, with those from Taiwan running at a still-impressive 94%. This shipment-to-capacity ratio continues the increasing trend first registered in July, with developers rushing to commission and connect solar projects before the end of the year in order to be eligible for incentives offered last year.

The ratio was 5% lower than in 2013, which can partly be explained by the 6 GW of new manufacturing capacity added via expansions and acquisitions.

"There was not a hard deadline as in 2013, but local governments will want to be as close to the quota as possible," said BNEF China solar analyst Nick Duan.

This strong finish to the year may yet serve to upset final-year figures released by China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), which estimates that the country finished 2014 with just under 10 GW of new PV capacity installed. BNEF estimates that between 2-3 additional GW were built last year and are currently awaiting connection to the grid. If so, this would yank the final figure closer to the 14 GW allocated under the national quota.

"According to a document leaked on January 26, the NEA aims to connect 15 GW of PV to the grid in 2015, including leftover projects from last year," said Duan. "But a year-end rush is less likely this year as the NEA is planning to require local authorities to finalize the list of approved projects by the end of Q1 2015."

Globally, BNEF expects between 52.8 and 58.1 GW of solar PV to be built in 2015, which is a sizeable increase on the 45-47.6 GW installed in 2014.