China Adds Solar Power the Size of France in First Quarter

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China’s solar installations in the first quarter were almost equal to France’s entire supply of power from the sun.

China connected 5.04 gigawatts of solar capacity to grids in the three months ended March 31, the National Energy Administration said in a statement on Monday. The Asian nation now has a total 33 gigawatts of solar-power supply.

“Construction of most additions in the first quarter began last year after securing local approvals,” said Nick Duan, a Beijing-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In China, developers must start construction within a year after approvals are given and validated.

China is seeking to approve and install as much as 17.8 gigawatts of solar power this year, or nearly 2 1/2 times the capacity added by the U.S. in 2014. The push is part of the Asian nation’s plans to cap carbon emissions in the next decade and a half.

Utility-scale photovoltaic power plants accounted for 4.38 gigawatts of the new capacity in the first quarter, with distributed projects comprising the remainder, the NEA said. 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 northwestern region of Xinjiang led the effort, with 1.1 gigawatts of photovoltaic power plants installed in the first three months. Xinjiang was followed by Inner Mongolia, Zhejiang, Gansu and Jiangsu.

The NEA on Monday also called for a nationwide quality check for solar power projects as installations burgeoned. Local governments are required to report inspection results by the end of July.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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