China idled 9% of its solar capacity in H1 2015, NEA reports

Portions of solar power connected to China’s grid were halted in the first half of the year amid grid congestion concerns, revealed the country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) today.

Around 9% of China’s solar PV capacity was forced to sit idle for the first six months of 2015, NEA reports, with the northwestern regions of Gansu and Xinjiang home to the majority of dormant generators.

As the pace of renewable electricity capacity accelerates, some sections of the Chinese grid have been unable to absorb the new generation adequately, forcing authority bodies to either delay solar PV connection or leave idle those solar farms that cannot be satisfactorily integrated into the grid.

Such a practice is nothing new for China’s wind power industry, but this is the first time that the NEA has revealed that such a large proportion – almost one-tenth – of the country’s surging solar sector has been forced to sit idle.

According to the NEA, 28% of Gansu’s solar PV capacity was left idle, with that figure at 19% for Xinjiang as a growing number of coal plants coming online in these regions served to exacerbate the problem.

The NEA also revealed that 7.7 GW of solar PV capacity was added in the first six months of the year, which is more than double the figure recorded at this stage last year and sets China on course to surpass its goal of installing 17.8 GW of solar PV in 2015.

Of this 7.7 GW figure, the majority – 6.7 GW – was utility-scale solar, with China’s growing distributed generation (DG) sector still contributing just a small percentage of the overall supply.

In total, China’s cumulative PV capacity now exceeds 35 GW, the NEA confirmed, and is currently in discussions to advance China’s five-year plan to include a 2020 PV target of 200 GW of cumulative capacity.

National Grid figures

China’s National Grid body also published PV figures this week, although they differ somewhat from those of the NEA.

For the first six months of 2015, National Grid reports that 6.32 GW of utility scale PV was added to the grid, taking cumulative capacity to 30.77 GW. The monthly breakdown is as follows:

Jan, 2,410 MW,

Feb, 1,570 MW,

March, 200 MW,

April, 310 MW,

May, 630 MW,

June, 190 MW.