China added 'up to 14GW' PV

China may have installed as much as 14GW of PV last year, higher than the government’s own estimate, underscoring the extent to which the nation has very rapidly become the most important and dynamic solar market in the world.

Earlier this month China’s National Energy Administration claimed the country had installed 12GW of PV last year, nearly all of it in ground-mount arrays.

But even that figure is likely too low, claims Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), thanks to a booming end-year market driven by the 1 yuan ($0.17) per kWh feed-in tariff for large projects that expired on 1 January.

China already dominated the PV manufacturing game, with Yingli Solar once again claiming the title of world’s largest module supplier in 2013. But the rise of its domestic market is having a transformative effect on the global PV landscape – and holds huge disruptive potential for China’s own power sector.

“PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China’s government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives,” says Jenny Chase, BNEF head of solar analysis.

Over the course of the past year, China Power Investment Corporation, China Three Gorges and China Huadian Corporation – all state-owned power generators – have become the world’s largest owners of solar assets.

Meanwhile, the startling ambitions of independent developers like Goldpoly and Shunfeng have captured the imagination of the global PV sector.

The rise of the Chinese market is having a huge impact on Chinese PV manufacturers, many of which have become significant project developers in their own right.

JinkoSolar recently announced it may spin off its fast-growing projects unit in an initial public offering.

Even former wind powerhouses – like the developer China WindPower – are heavily emphasising PV in their future plans.

China has an official 14GW PV target for 2014, but BNEF, like a number of analysts, believes it will fall slightly short of that figure due to the importance Beijing has placed on rooftop installations – a segment with which China’s downstream PV sector has limited experience.

Nearly 60% of the PV capacity added last year in China came from ground-mount projects in just three western provinces – Gansu, Xianjiang and Qinghai.

Globally, 39GW of PV was added last year, representing 28% growth on 2012, according to BNEF. The market researcher expects further growth of 20% in 2014, suggesting a near-50GW global market.