China: NEA data puts cumulative PV capacity at 43.2 GW

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Growing by 15.1 GW last year, China’s installed solar PV capacity now stands at 43.2 GW according to the National Energy Administration – usurping Germany as the world’s largest solar market and confirming data published last month by state news agency Xinhua that suggested China had surpassed 43 GW of capacity.

As the world’s most populous country, its largest consumer of energy and its leading producer of solar PV panels, it should come as no surprise that China now leads the way in capacity installed. However, its growth in such a short space of time – PV additions have surged 13-fold since 2011 – has been met with optimism that not only can this pace be maintained, but perhaps accelerated as the country works towards its clean energy goals.

The 15.1 GW added in 2015 represented one-quarter of all global PV additions last year, and is the equivalent of one-third of China’s panel production capability. Date from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) puts Germany at 38.4 GW of cumulative capacity, slightly below the 39.6 GW that the Federal Network Agency calculates is the country’s true capacity.

The U.S. is the world’s third-largest market in terms of cumulative PV capacity, according to BNEF, with 27.8 GW installed.

Some skeptics warn, however, that while the U.S. will continue to exceed its annual installation figures over the next few years, China could suffer if it is unable to ease the bottleneck caused by curtailment – according to the NEA, around 30% of PV power generation installed remained unused in 2015 across the northwestern province of Gansu, and 26% was idle in Xinjiang as grid constraints meant that large portions of potential PV capacity could not be integrated.