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Air Quality air pollution standards China

Published on May 18th, 2014 | by James Ayre

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China To Triple Solar Capacity To 70,000 MW By 2017, To Help Reduce Air Pollution

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May 18th, 2014 by  

China has thrilled the solar industry in the past few years with bigger and bigger solar installation targets. Of course, this also came on the back of solar capacity oversupply and a solar manufacturer shakeout that put many non-Chinese solar companies out of business, but it has also helped to pull manufacturers out of a financial crisis and further drive down the cost of solar for customers and the developers and installers who benefit from growing demand. China’s latest announcement is a pretty impressive solar target of 70,000 megawatts by 2017.

However, anyone who has followed the China solar story over the past few years knows that we may well see that target raised higher before too long. Furthermore, if the driving factor is air pollution, and China is going to be building even more coal power plants in the coming years, the push for clean energy is only going to get stronger. Anyhow, for more information on the new China solar target, see this Solar Love repost:

China’s 2017 Solar Target Raised To 70,000 Megawatts (via Solar Love)

China just seems to be getting ever more ambitious with its renewable energy targets, as recent announcements have shown. Or is “ever more desperate” the more accurate way to put it? In a recent announcement, the Chinese government revealed that…

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • silqworm

    The costs of coal are much higher. According to Al Gore, the true cost of coal is a zillion trillion million dollars a year!

  • Others

    They can do it. China vaulted from nowhere to #3 in Solar power installed capacity.
    Ideally they should use all the PV panels they produce, that way we don’t need to spend so much energy in transporting those panels to places 1000’s of miles away.

  • Matt

    “If one believes” the data coming out of China a large portion of their “coal” pollution problem is old boilers in homes and factories. So the second portion of this pollution improvement would be a plan to replace those old boilers. The US and EU both had this issue in homes in the 40s; and then did a push to switch them over to electric or NG.

    • LookingForward

      will probably do that and more, cookingstoves, (water)heating will probably all be replaced.
      In this respect I love communism, they can force people to replace them, would be good for enviroment. :P

  • Zer0Sum

    Lets’ not forget that they are using coal to manufacture the 50GW of solar panels required to meet this target so this does not represent an immediate drop in coal consumption. In fact it is likely to represent an increase in coal consumption for the next 3 years until they have met the targets given that the vast majority of coal consumption comes from the manufacturing industry.

    It would be prudent for the Chinese Government to implement a solar rooftop program to put localised solar on every house/village in the country like what is happening in Sri Lanka. That would go a long way to offsetting the consumer market consumption.

    However as long as China intends to keep track with it’s exponential growth target of 8% per annum where coal is the main power source there is not much hope for mitigating climate change. At least the Australians will keep their economy afloat in the short term. (until al the coal is dug up and shipped out of course)

    • Senlac

      Well sooner or later some of those solar electrons will be used to build solar panels :) They have to start somewhere.

    • LookingForward

      I believe I read somewhere that China willl be one of the first countries to implement CCS on a large scale. So that will partily help.

    • Calamity_Jean

      “At least the Australians will keep their economy afloat in the short term. “

      That might be very short term. I suspect the Chinese would like to quit spending precious foreign exchange money on imported coal. The coal port Australia is working on may turn out to be a waste of money, as China buys less and less of those dirty rocks.

  • JamesWimberley

    James is right that the target is likely to be raised. That’s because it is singularly unambitious. 50GW over the four years 2014-2017 comes out at 12.5GW a year, about the 2013 outturn and lower than the 2014 target of 14 GW.

    My armchair interpretation: the latter depends on a big shift in priorities from utility plants in the empty West, easy to build but hard to connect, to smaller and distributed projects in the populous Eastern provinces, close to demand but harder to set up. Either this is going badly, or the leadership still fears it might. new and more credible targets will only be set once they see how it’s really going this year.

  • tibi stibi

    i also posted this over at solarlove.com “what would be interesting is to see the comparison between coal/gas and
    wind/solar. i thought that for 2013 it was about 50% each.
    is it so that when solar is increased coal is decreased?”

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      thanks. yes, i’ve been meaning to dig up some numbers on the split. afraid i won’t be able to find any, esp given how fast things are changing there.

  • Omega Centauri

    Tripling in three years is a 44percent annual growth rate. That is pretty much what the long term trend going back decades has been. So it would be a simple continuation of the already established exponential trend. Good news, as even the more optimistic predictions show the PV growth rate slowing to a fraction of that.

  • Chris Marshalk

    Frankly, the Chinese have left this too late. Just hope the solar panels can get enough sun through the thick pollution.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      Thick pollution is not that big problem. At worst it is about 20 % reduction in solar panel output but there are not that many worst days — even in China!

      There might be even slight advantage from the pollution, that might at least partially negate the dimming effect. That is, smog scatters light efficiently, therefore light can be gathered from all directions. This can be taken into account so that the solar panels are pointing into various directions between East and West and therefore the daily production curve will be smoother and the off-set of peak electricity demand is better and in general production curve is more grid friedly.

      I am not sure how large this effect is, but from stetson I would guess that it could compensate about half of the loss due to dimming.

      • Chris Marshalk

        Cars are causing the pollution. Solar panels won’t help reduce the pollution as everyone’s still driving “ICE” Internal Combustion Engines & not Electric Vehicles. Though, It’s a step in the right direction.

        • Doug Cutler

          ICE cars definitely contribute. Another angle: China sells about 20 million electric scooters and electric pedal assist bicycles to its citizens every year. ICE motorcycles have been more or less banned in many areas. Right now these vehicles are charged mainly from coal-fired generation as this currently dominates Chinese grid. So to the extent that solar and wind offset new coal or eventually replace existing coal, this transportation sector gets greener.

          But like the rest of the world, China will need to take up EVs in large numbers.

          • Jouni Valkonen

            It was curious that I was in 2006 in Chengdu, China. Already back then there was only electric scooters on the roads and on sale. Also Taxis were operating with natural gas.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Vehicles are certainly responsible for a portion of the in city pollution, but most of it does come from burning coal. China gets well over three times as much energy from coal as from oil and a lot of coal burning happens within cities for industrial or heating or cooking purposes. Increasing the amount of solar PV allows the most polluting coal plants to be shut down and makes electricity available to serve as a substitute for coal for home heating, cooking, and for industrial use. This will be particularly true once enough solar capacity is installed to push down electricity prices during the day. But in the short term the main benefit is reducing the number of new coal plants that are built and shutting down the worst of the existing coal plants.

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