China claims 34.2 GW of PV installations in 2016

Image: Canadian Solar

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has released PV installation figures for 2016, reporting that a stunning 34.2 GW of solar was connected to the grid over the full year.

This is substantially more than analysts had predicted. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) had earlier estimated that 26-27 GW of new solar would be installed, however BNEF Head of Solar Analysis Jenny Chase notes that there was likely a rush by developers spurred by the nation’s system of annual province-level quotas.

“We think what they have been doing is building so that they are first in line for the 2017 quota,” Chase told pv magazine. She notes that the 34 GW figure may also include a significant portion of PV installed in 2015 and only connected to the grid in 2016.

The NEA figure is also 3 GW higher than Mercom Capital’s forecast that China would install 31 GW over the course of 2016, and may result in multiple analysts revising their 2016 installation numbers.

When added to the 43.2 GW installed by the end of 2015, the new 2016 capacity will bring China to 77.4 GW of installed capacity. And while this leaves less than 30 GW to meet China’s 105 GW PV goal in 2020, the nation does not appear to be putting the breaks on yet.

Asia Europe Clean Energy Advisory (AECEA) says that November, December and the first two weeks of January saw increasing project developments, and estimates that 20 GW of new capacity is “feasible” in the first half of 2017.

However, China is having difficulty integrating all of this solar on its existing grid. High levels of curtailment are being reported in provinces in Western China, and the nation’s policies are giving preference to PV closer to demand centers along the Eastern Coast.