China installs 7.2 GW of solar in Q1

Utility-scale projects accounted for 4.78 GW of the total. Distributed-generation PV capacity additions — a key development priority for the central government — came in at 2.43 GW, up 151% from the preceding year.

“The development of distributed-generation capacity continues to accelerate, mainly in Zhejiang, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces,” the NEA said.

The biggest surprise with the new quarterly installation figures was the shift in development from the northwestern and northeastern provinces — where curtailment has been an issue — to the provinces of central and eastern China. About 1.08 GW of capacity was added in Anhui province, of which roughly 690 MW was distributed-generation capacity, suggesting that the government is finally seeing some success with its policy-driven efforts to facilitate the deployment of such projects. Zhejiang province came second with about 1.05 GW of new installations — including 600 MW of distributed-generation capacity — followed by Henan province, with 1.01 GW of new capacity.

However, distributed-generation PV projects only account for about about 15% of the country’s cumulative installed solar capacity, which reached 84.63 GW at the end of March. Utility-scale projects account for the lion’s share of total installations at roughly 72 GW, according to NEA statistics.

In terms of cumulative installations, the vast Xinjiang region leads the pack at 8.64 GW, followed by Gansu province at 6.97 GW, the Inner Mongolia region at 6.56 GW and the eastern province of Jiangsu at 6.11 GW. Together, these provinces and regions account for about 33% of cumulative, nationwide installed capacity.

Solar projects generated about 21.4 billion kWh of electricity throughout China in the January-March period, up 80% year on year. However, the curtailment of solar from the grid remains a serious problem. About 39% of capacity went to waste in the Xinjiang region, followed by 19% in Gansu province, 11% in Shaanxi province and 10% in the Ningxia region.

Installations will likely remain steady until June, when new feed-in tariff rates will take effect, according to Asia Europe Clean Energy Advisory (AECEA). The Beijing-based research firm says that deployment in the second half of 2017 remains uncertain.