24 August 2014 | Posted by Zachary
China has been installing a lot of solar power in recent years, but most of it has been utility-scale solar. This year, it set a target of getting a lot more distributed solar PV on the ground. That hasn't been happening (for a variety of reasons), so China has just improved the outlook, and its chance of hitting its earlier targets, by lowering the bar, so to speak.
To get more specific, a "distributed solar PV" project can now be 20 megawatts (MW) in size. 20 MW isn't huge, but not many people in the solar industry would classify it as small. It's too large to be a rooftop solar project, and what many of us think about when we hear "distributed solar PV" is rooftop solar.
Another aspect of the policy concerns the voltage of the grid that a project connects to. That has been increased from 10 kV to 35 kV, quite a significant change.
In both cases above, in order to hit its distributed solar PV targets, China has simply changed the definition of distributed solar PV, which will likely increase market interest thanks to the more widely available subsidies.
I'm happy with the decision. Faced with challenges to genuinely distributed solar power, China had the option to lower its 2014 target drastically (it did lower it a little bit anyway, from 14 GW to 13 GW) or to find a way to get a lot more "distributed solar power" installed in the second half of 2014. It chose the latter option, which I think is better for China and certainly better for the world.
Aside from the definition changes, the country is also raising the subsidies.
"DPV subsidies may more than double to be close to FiT rates, up from CNY 0.42 ($0.07) per watt to between CNY 0.90 and CNY 1 per watt, depending on areas of installation," pv magazine writes.
Furthermore, improving communication between relevant bodies (which is one of the big barriers to genuine distributed PV in China) is also being addressed a bit. "The NEA is trying to establish a communication platform between government, banks and companies. It encourages the establishment of a one-stop financial solution for DPV companies, that would include support from a PV industry investment fund."
Snart moves by China to stay at the front of the solar PV revolution.
Image by International Rivers (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)