China Idles Solar Power for First Time Amid Grid Congestion

China halted power flows from solar panels for the first time as congestion on its electricity grid prevented renewable energy from reaching customers.

About 9 percent of the nation’s solar capacity sat idle in the first six months of the year, according to data from the National Energy Administration released Tuesday. Dormant generators were mainly in the northwestern region of Gansu and Xinjiang.

China’s electricity grid is struggling to absorb quickly increasing flows from both renewables and coal-fired power plants. Authorities either delay hooking new plants to the grid or idle facilities whose output can’t be managed.

Wind farms for years have suffered such delays, and solar now is joining. The problem is exacerbated by slower growth in electricity use and by more coal plants coming online.

Gansu had the highest rate for idled solar plants, with 28 percent of power generation out of service. Xinjiang’s rate was 19 percent, the NEA said in a statement on its website.

China added about 7.7 gigawatts of solar power in the first half, more than doubling installations a year ago, the NEA data show. The nation is the biggest market for solar energy in the world and the home of most of the largest panel manufacturers.

Utility-scale photovoltaic plants accounted for 6.7 gigawatts of the new capacity. Smaller distributed solar projects built near where the power is consumed comprised the remainder, the NEA said.

The Asian nation now has a total 35 gigawatts of solar-power supply, the NEA said.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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