With 538 GW operational large scale utility scale solar, and onshore and offshore wind capacity, and another 750 GW under pre-construction and construction phase, China is on track to exceed its 1.2 TW solar and wind installed capacity goal for 2030, 5 years ahead of schedule in 2025, according to the Global Energy Monitor (GEM).
If distributed and small-scale utility installations keep pace with the larger projects, provincial targets could be exceeded, it adds.
“It is therefore highly likely that the provincial targets (approximately 1,371 GW for wind and solar) will be achieved, surpassing the central government’s target of 1,200 GW well ahead of 2030. This prospective capacity is enough to increase the global wind fleet by nearly 50% and grow global large utility-scale solar installations by 85% over current levels,” state GEM analysts in the report titled A Race to the Top China 2023: China’s quest for energy security drives wind and solar development.
Operational solar capacity of China at the end of Q1/2023 was 228 GW, counts the GEM, while that of offshore wind was 31.4 GW and onshore wind over 278 GW. The numbers continue to grow however, as sccording to the National Energy Administration (NEA), at the end of May 2023, China’s total installed PV capacity had risen to 454 GW and that of wind power to 380 GW (see Impressive Chinese Solar PV Growth Numbers).
The prospective capacity includes around 379 GW of large scale utility scale solar and 371 GW wind energy capacity. Nearly all of it is part of the government’s 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) for 2021-2025 and hence is scheduled to come online by 2025-end.
GEM analysts state the fact when they claim China’s renewable energy dominance is ‘set to not only continue, but likely even to accelerate’.
To support the intermittency of renewables, the Asian giant is also actively promoting power storage, exploring integrated generation, storage, and load management systems. Green hydrogen is also on the agenda, powered by renewable energy sources.
As solar proliferates faster than wind, China’s traditional coal capital Shanxi leads the charge as the region with the largest operational utility scale solar capacity of nearly 19 GW. Xinjiang follows next with around 17 GW and Hebei with 16 GW capacity.
China’s planned mega wind and solar bases also find mention in the report. Concentrated in arid regions of Inner Mongolia and Northwest China have a planned capacity of 97 GW under 1st wave to be commissioned till 2022-2023, including 2 GW Kubuqi Desert Control Photovoltaic Complex. According to the report, the bulk of these projects are progressing as planned.
The 2nd wave of these mega projects, as announced by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in February 2022, target 455 GW by 2030 mainly in the Gobi desert and other wasteland areas. Of this 455 GW, 200 GW is aimed to be completed within 14th FYP by 2025, and remaining 255 GW in the 15th FYP (2026-2030) (see 200 GW RE Before 2025 In China’s Deserts). GEM isn’t too confident of achieving the 2025 target saying it could prove challenging.
However, GEM analysts believe that the current pace and scale of renewable energy and storage is not enough to ensure coal becomes a ‘truly supporting’ power source.
“China is making strides, but with coal still holding sway as the dominant power source, the country needs bolder advancements in energy storage and green technologies for a secure energy future,” explained GEM Researcher Martin Weil.