China leads world in new installed photovoltaic capacity

Photo taken on Oct. 9 shows a photovoltaic generation base in Wannian county, Shangrao, east China's Jiangxi province. Photo by Xu Shenggao/People's Daily Online

China’s new and total installed photovoltaic capacities had ranked the first in the world for 7 and 5 consecutive years, respectively, as of the end of 2019, said Wang Bohua, vice chairman and secretary general of China Photovoltaic Industry Association.

Wang announced the performance at the recent 5th China Photovoltaic Industry Forum (CPIF).

The country’s production of polycrystalline silicon and modules production capacity also topped the world for 9 and 13 years in a row, Wang added, saying China would still keep its records this year.

It is reported that China’s photovoltaic industry still kept stable growth in the first three quarters of this year despite the impacts from COVID-19 and the slump of global trade. The country produced around 290,000 tons of polycrystalline silicon, up 18.9 percent from a year ago. Module production capacity exceeded 80 GW, expanding 6.7 percent year on year. Besides, the country saw 18.7 GW of newly installed photovoltaic capacity, up 17 percent from a year ago, and the photovoltaic generation capacity has hit over 200 billion kilowatt hours, 16.9 percent more that in the same period last year.

China’s photovoltaic industry has established a complete industrial chain that leads the world in technology, size and cost, said Li Qionghui, director of the new energy research department at the State Grid Energy Research Institute. According to her, the generation efficiency of China’s photovoltaic industry has broken records for times, and the cost of photovoltaic systems dropped by over 90 percent than that in 2005.

“Chinese enterprises have made huge breakthroughs in photovoltaic technologies and cost in the past 10 years. The price of silicon wafer dropped to 3 yuan ($0.46) from around 100 yuan a decade ago, and the module price also went down from 30 yuan per watt ten years ago to today’s 1.7 yuan,” said Li Zhenguo, founder and president of LONGi Group, the world’s most valuable solar technology company. The cost of photovoltaic generation is even lower than 0.1 yuan per kilowatt at places with high-quality sunshine, he added.

According to statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), solar photovoltaics prices have fallen 82 percent since 2010 while concentrated solar power has dropped 47 percent. Onshore and offshore wind energy costs have dropped 39 percent and 29 percent. The prices will keep going lower in the next ten years, the agency forecasted.

In the first 9 months, the export of photovoltaic modules exceeded that from a year ago by 52.3 GW, said Wang.

The supply side of the photovoltaic industry was not very much impacted as China, the largest photovoltaic production base, had already controlled the spread of COVID-19 and fully recovered its industrial production in the second quarter, Zhang Senri with the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products told the People’s Daily. The sound performance of the overseas market also contributed a big part, he added.

The annual installed capacity of this year is expected to stay on the same level with that of the last year due to the hot demand in the second half, he said, adding that the newly installed capacity might hit 110 to 120 GW. China’s export of photovoltaic products will probably grow by over 20 percent this year, he noted.

“The prospering global photovoltaic market is an irreversible trend, and there are huge emerging markets waiting to be explored by Chinese enterprises,” Zhang said.

As enterprises constantly improve their supply capacity and optimize products, China’s photovoltaic industry will surely lead a clean way of global power energy through its strategy of “going global.”