China Adds Solar Capacity the Size of Australia in Energy Push

Aug 07, 2014 4:17 am ET

Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, accelerated solar power installations in the first half, adding enough capacity in the period to equal Australia’s entire supply of power from sunlight at the end of last year.

China added 3.3 gigawatts of solar capacity in the six months ended June 30, double last year’s additions, the National Energy Administration said today in a statement. China now has 23 gigawatts of solar power supply, almost seven times as much as Australia, which is described by its own government as the world’s highest recipient of radiation per square meter.

China’s race to add renewable energy comes as policymakers push for ways to combat the nation’s growing problem of air pollution. Just this week, Beijing ordered official vehicles off the road and urged the use of public transport to ensure smog- free skies for a preparatory meeting ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.

Utility-scale photovoltaic power plants accounted for 2.3 gigawatts of the new capacity in the first half, with distributed projects comprising the remainder, the NEA said.

The northwestern region of Xinjiang led the way, with 900 megawatts of photovoltaic power plants in the first six months. Xinjiang was followed by Inner Mongolia, Qinghai and Shanxi. The eastern province of Jiangsu added 270 megawatts of distributed solar capacity, according to the NEA.

Distributed Solar

Distributed generation refers to electricity produced at or near where it’s used. In the case of solar, distributed projects typically include rooftops or ground-mounted panels near facilities such as sporting arenas or municipal buildings.

The agency vows to install 13 gigawatts of solar power capacity this year by supporting the development of distributed solar power generation, Xinhua News Agency reported Aug. 5, citing Wu Xinxiong, the NEA’s head.

China may announce policies as soon as this month to encourage such installations, people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly, said earlier this week.

“Demand will be quite positive” from August in China, Xie Jian, president of JA Solar Holdings Co., said in an interview last month.