Buried in the latest reports on 2015 solar installations is fact that attests to the changed landscape of global solar markets: that China has surpassed Germany and now has the largest installed solar PV capacity of any nation on earth.
This fact was not missed by official state news agency Xinhua, which last Thursday reported that with 15 GW added in 2015 China has now reached 43 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity. This is below the estimates of major market analysts. Mercom Capital estimates that China has installed 46 GW of solar PV since 2009, and GTM Research puts this number at 50 GW.
This development was a long time coming, as China has been the worlds largest market for solar PV since 2013, with over 10 GW installed in 2013 and 2014. The nation plans to install 150 GW of solar PV by 2020, however China is still struggling with transmission issues and high levels of curtailment are being reported, particularly in Western provinces.
Germany had been largest market for solar through 2012 with over 7 GW installed annually for three straight years. However a series of cuts and changes to the nations feed-in tariff under two successive coalition governments resulted in three years of market collapse.
While December numbers have not been released by the nations federal Network Agency, at the end of November Germany had reached 39.6 GW. This would put the nation at slightly under 40 GW at the end of the year, as only 67 MW was installed in November and 1.3 GW over the previous 12 months.
In addition to leading the world in solar PV installations, China has long led the world in solar thermal deployment. At the end of 2013 the nation had reached 262 GW-thermal of solar heating capacity, which represents 70% of the capacity installed globally.