China doubles solar power capacity

China has been installing a large amount of renewable energy capacity in recent years. Image courtesy of Wikipedia - WiNG.
Rooftop solar PV panels in Hong Kong SAR, China. Image courtesy of Wikipedia - WiNG.

New information out of China indicates that the country has, over the last year, doubled its solar energy capacity.

According to data from China’s National Energy Administration, total installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity rose by 34.54 gigawatts, bringing total capacity to 77.42 gigawatts at the end of 2016.

Following this massive increase in capacity, China now holds the title of the country with the most solar energy capacity in the world.

By 2020, China plans to install another 110 gigawatts of capacity which would require the country to more than double again its total amount.

To do this, they have earmarked a massive sum of approximately $360bn to spend on renewable energy over the next few years.

The world’s largest solar plant

Driving this explosion in solar capacity are a number of huge solar projects in several provinces across China.

Among these, the Longyangxia Dam Solar Farm located in Qinghai Province, when complete, will be the largest of its type in the world.

Construction has been under way since 2013, and the site now produces 850MW of power – enough to supply up to 200,000 homes.

Longyangxia is one of several projects on a similar scale planned in the future.

Pollution problem still far from solved

Nonetheless, while China is a leader in solar power installations, the total energy they produce only amounts to a mere 1% of the country’s overall energy use.

Currently the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide pollution, China has committed to a massive shift towards renewable energy into the future.

According to official plans, the country’s government has pledged to increase renewable power to 20% of total energy consumption by 2030.

Even then, should the country’s energy usage continue to grow, it could be many years before China actually begins to reduce its net carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, air pollution caused by fossil fuel use in China continues to be a huge political issue, with growing public unrest related to the near permanent smog in many large Chinese cities.