China eyes 70GW solar by 2017

China aims to have installed 70GW of solar capacity by 2017, according to a government document that sends another strong signal of the country’s ongoing ambitions in renewables.

The country will ramp up solar installations over the next three years as part of a pollution-reduction programme, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement on its website.

In its wider pronouncements on the issue, the NDRC also said that it wants the grid network connecting the northern cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Tangshan to draw 10% of its electricity from onshore wind farms by 2015 and 15% by 2017.

The latest statement on renewables represents “an accelerated roadmap for PV in China”, says Ray Lian, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

The authorities had already announced a target of 35GW of cumulative installations by 2015.

China installed about 10GW of solar in 2013, according to IHS. The research firm expects the country to install 4.8GW of rooftop capacity and 8GW of ground-mount PV this year.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), estimates the nation’s cumulative solar capacity at roughly 18GW by the end of last year.

In January, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) raised its target for new solar PV capacity installations to 14GW in 2014, from an initial goal of 12GW.

The fresh 2017 target raises expectations that China could exceed 100GW of installed PV capacity by 2020.

“In the past, (the authorities) officially announced 35GW by 2015 and were talking about 100GW by 2020,” Lian says. “But this is the first time that (the authorities) have set an official target for 2017.”

Distributed generation could account for more than half of the 2017 total, Lian says.

“It’s still far away, so it’s certainly achievable,” he adds. “But it will take a lot of effort by the government and the PV industry.”

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