Chinese solar production figures continue to ramp up

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The traditional end-of-June rush to complete solar projects in China, as developers race to secure public subsidies, will this year be accompanied by an end-of-December surge that will see more than 30 GW of new generation capacity added in the second half of the year.

That was the confident prediction that emerged from a two-day meeting held this week by the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA), with the quasi-governmental body predicting a rush to complete projects in time to secure subsidies allocated under the nation’s new reverse bidding regime. The National Energy Administration has set a deadline of the end of the year to secure the full subsidies agreed, otherwise tariffs will reduce.

The CPIA meeting again laid bare the chilling effect last year’s decision by Beijing to reduce public solar subsidies had on new generation capacity additions in the world’s biggest solar market.

But if the end-of-May 2018 “5/31” policy u-turn dampened Chinese installation levels, it did little to affect solar manufacturing output as PV markets around the world started to really take off.

Rising production and exports

According to the CPIA, Chinese manufacturers produced 30.8% more solar cells in the first six months of the year than in the corresponding period of last year. And the 51 GW of cells made were more efficient too, with p-type mono PERC (passivated emitter rear contact) cells boasting average efficiencies of 22.1-22.3%.

The 63 GW of wafers produced was up 26% on the first half of last year, with most new production lines making mono product, and the 47 GW of modules churned out represented a year-on-year rise of 11.9%.

With Chinese polysilicon manufacturers expanding production capacity at a terrific rate, 155,000 tons of poly was produced in the first six months, for a year-on-year improvement of 8.4%.

That all added up to $9 billion worth of exports with growing markets in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Belgium – thanks to the expiry last year of the minimum price level for Chinese-made solar cells and modules exported to the EU. The Ukraine was also cited as a growing market. However, the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China ensured the latter’s export market to the former remained negligible.

Dampened capacity

The 5/31 policy decision – and subsequent months of uncertainty about future solar policy – saw only 11.4 GW of new solar generation capacity added in the first half, for a 53% year-on-year decline. Digging into that figure, the 4.6 GW of distributed generation projects was 62% down on the amount installed in the first six months of last year and the 6.8 GW of large-scale projects added marked a decline of 43% on the same basis of comparison.

The domestic solar gold rush anticipated by the CPIA in the current six-month period, however, is predicted to bring full-year installation levels of 40-45 GW.