Clean Power

Published on September 1st, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill


China Could Reach 100 GW Of PV Capacity By 2018

September 1st, 2014 by  

It was announced in the middle of August that the UK had surpassed 5 GW worth of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, just the sixth country to have done so. However, Michael Barker, a senior analyst for NPD Solarbuzz, has written in a blog post that such a milestone will soon mean very little as countries start passing 10 GW, 50 GW, and even 100 GW in cumulative market capacity.

The latest statistics from NPD Solarbuzz demand forecasts predict that by the end of 2018 there will be at least nine countries with installed solar PV capacity levels above 5 GW.

But that’s nothing when compared with the company’s prediction that China will surpass the 100 GW capacity mark in the same year, accounting for over 20% of total global solar PV installations.


Cumulative Installed PV Capacity by Market Size, 2018
Image Credit: NPD Solarbuzz

As seen in the chart above, the largest percentage of installed capacity globally will come from the yellow 50-100 GW range, made up by Japan and the US.

The UK achievement of 5 GW was relatively unheralded, despite it being “at least worthy of a group hug,” according to Solarbuzz Vice President Finlay Colville. 90% of the capacity has been installed over the past 3 years, an impressive achievement, especially when you consider that 46% of the capacity was installed in two regions.


Regional Location of 5 GW UK Solar PV — With Almost Half of the UK’s 5 Gigawatts PV Capacity is Located in the South Regions. Image Credit: NPD Solarbuzz

However, China has been making huge leaps and bounds in developing its own capacity base, thanks to increased demand and the ever-present Chinese manufacturing machine.

The global solar market is expected to reach $137 billion in 2020, according to business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, thanks in part to the massive growth being experienced in China. Over the past few years, I’ve reported on several of China’s record-breaking announcements: In 2012 the Asia-Pacific solar market had grown by 165% throughout 2011, thanks primarily to a mammoth growth of 500% in China; a year later another report suggested that the Asia Pacific renewable energy market could hit 535.2 GW by 2020; and in 2013 a Solarbuzz report predicted that the region would account for half of global PV demand in 2014.

Predictions aside, however, China is making its own history. The country’s capital announced early-August that it was going to ban coal by 2020 in several of its inner-city districts, a promise that was immediately backed up by news that the city had cut coal use by 7% in the first half of 2014. At the same time, the country increased its 2014 solar installation target to 13 GW, a target it intends to reach by “supporting the development of distributed PV power generation” according to Wu Xinxiong, head of the country’s National Energy Administration.

Still think the country might struggle to hit such a milestone as 100 GW in the next four years?

Consider, finally, that Chinese solar PV module suppliers are currently responsible for 71% of all PV module shipments from the top 20 suppliers, with “leading Chinese module suppliers Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, Jinko Solar, and JA Solar all expected to report record shipments for Q2’14.”

Furthermore, 29% of those PV module shipments are coming straight home to China.

”Leading Chinese solar module suppliers continue to have opportunities to increase shipment volumes,” said Ray Lian, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “With their domestic market in China forecast to exceed 10 GW in 2H’14, different supply strategies are likely to emerge to address local and overseas markets.”

100 GW sounds a frighteningly impressive milestone, however when you consider that China was reported to have an installed generating capacity of 1,146 GW (Mecometer), and an ever-increasing population, 100 GW suddenly sounds rather sensible.

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I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

  • globi

    If I’m not mistaken China already installed 29 GWth of solar hot water capacity in one year already:

    29 GWth would correspond to about 6 GW of PV rooftop capacity.
    Given the fact that solar hot water systems are relatively small and not installed over the entire area of a roof >10 GW rooftop PV would almost be business as usual.
    So, 20 GW PV per year including remote PV should be doable.

    Also, Germany has significantly less people and already installed 3 GW of PV in one single month (rate = 36 GW/year).

    Since China already has an installed power capacity of over 1100 GW, 100 GW of PV will not require any storage.
    Keep in mind China has already more HVDC transmission lines than any other country in the world and are planning single HVDC lines with a capacity of 10 GW (!):

  • Ronald Brakels

    100 gigawatts is a lot and I’m not just talking about how it can send 82 Deloreans back in time. That’s enough to provide about 5% of total current electricity use and just like in other countries it will be enough to push down the average price of electricity during the day and further worsen the economics of coal. With the current 100 gigawatts of wind power already installed the future prospect of coal are dark, which means the future prospects of humanity are bright.

    • Omega Centauri

      If you look at it per capita wise, its only roughly 100watts per capita. Germany is already several times higher than that. In terms of saving the environment, this is still peanuts.

      • Bob_Wallace

        But China seems to be planting their peanuts and growing ever larger crops.

      • I’d look at it per GDP or per electricity use rather than per capita.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Pah! Going as a percentage of current electricity consumption per capita It’s more than twice as much as that slacker Australia and it leaves Mexico’s big hat for dead. They are installing fast by world standards. Sure, I’d wish they’d install faster, but I’m not really in a position to criticise them.

    • Will E

      its the Chinese organisation, production, logistics, pushing faster and cheaper Solar.
      Era of steam utilities is gone by the Wind and Solar. 2018 a 100 every 5 year another 100.
      and US and Europe Australia must follow or bust.

  • JamesWimberley

    The source is here (link). The basis is presumably an official announcement of a target of 70 GW by end 2017 (link), plus a guess for 2018.

    The implied growth path is peculiar. It goes something like this.
    End 2012 cumulative installations : 8 GW
    2013: +12 GW (actual)
    2014: + 13 GW (target)
    2015: +13 GW
    2016: +13 GW
    2017: + 13 GW (total 72 GW)
    2018: + 28 GW (Bloomberg)
    It won’t work out like this. The plateau in 2014 results from the difficult shift to distributed away from utility, probably because of serious grid connection and transmission issues. Land costs nothing in Inner Mongolia and Xinkiang, but they are very remote. China will presumably overcome the teething problems over distributed. The flat targets beyond 2015 are just bureaucratic caution. Change to a very conservative 15% annual growth rate from next year, and you get:
    2013: +12 GW (actual) cumulative 20 GW
    2014: +13 GW (target) cumulative 33 GW
    2015: +15 GW (projection) cumulative 48 GW
    2016: +17 GW (projection) cumulative 65 GW
    2017: + 20 GW (projection) cumulative 85 GW
    2018: + 23 GW (projection) cumulative 108 GW

    I’m not betting anything on these numbers, but I’m sure they are more likely than the official ones.

    • Matt

      While glad to see them pushing more point of use solar. I would not be surprised to see some massive transmission upgrades. Then some storage at each end. At source end to store when producing more than can be send down the line. At destination end, when using less than line can handle. I’m not sure that storage has entered the mind set of central planners yet. But give it a few years and you know they will want a piece of that pie too. I hoping that 2014 final and 2015 actual will prove out the China peak coal numbers. That would be great news for everyone, well maybe not coal exporters 😉

      • Matt

        And we are only seeing a little bit of the basic research that is going into batteries right now. Big changes are coming!

      • JamesWimberley

        China peak coal source here (link).
        China is spending money on transmission. But for now it is a constraint, as is grid connection in remote areas. Say what you like about US utilities, they do seem to do a good jog in hooking up wind and solar plants.

      • Considering that BYD is in the storage business (already has such products) and its CEO/founder/president/chairman was the richest man in China a few years ago, I’d think this would be getting some state love soon. But we’ll see. He’s an interesting character and may not be pulling strings in government (but i highly doubt that).

      • Calamity_Jean

        I’m under the impression that Mr. Abbott in Australia has been counting on sending a lot of coal to China and India. He and his dirty-energy buddies are going to be in a world of hurt.

    • eveee

      James – I am deeply suspicious of these numbers, but China has something of a controlled economy, so they are not completely out of line. Recently, they announced a switch to rooftop solar. I don’t know how they are going to work that out. With rooftop, there is none of the problems they had with utility transmission constraints. The cited article states

      “Lured by generous subsidies and easy loans, Chinese solar developers installed 10-11 GWs of solar generating capacity last year, mostly solar farms in the Gobi desert and barren hills of western China. Some solar farms are still sitting idle, unconnected to the grids.”

      Thus, their relative warmth toward rooftop solar.

      • Bob_Wallace

        China ran into a transmission problem with wind. In fact, I think that’s happened more than once. Moving a lot of emphasis to distributed solar lets them keep installing renewables at a high rate while building transmission lines.

        And by installing rooftop China supports and strengthens its manufacturing sector. I suspect China intends to be the world’s solar panel manufacturer. I wonder how long it will be until China starts opening plants in other countries in order to lower shipping costs?

        • JamesWimberley

          It’s already happening, as in Turkey (link). The idea is more to meet local-content requirements and get inside the EU association free trade zone than to reduce low shipping costs. I expect we will see more of it.

        • eveee

          Could the recent US tariffs spur China’s domestic solar consumption?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I would suspect not in any large fashion.

            China is up and running with renewables. If China’s leaders are to be believed, and so far they seem to be truthful on energy matters.

            China says that it intends to be a world leader in combating climate change and that means that they install low carbon capacity as rapidly as possible. With China installing more solar in a single year than the US has in total I doubt the US tariffs are anything more than a bit of noise in their system.

      • Note that “distributed solar” is now up to 20 MW in China. Revised definition after not installing nearly as much distributed solar in the first half of the year as it needs to in order to hit its 2014 target. That’s not rooftop solar.

    • Note that “distributed solar” is now up to 20 MW in China. Revised definition after not installing nearly as much distributed solar in the first half of the year as it needs to in order to hit its 2014 target.

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