China sees leapfrog development of photovoltaic industry

By Ding Yiting, People’s Daily

China has become a dominant player in the global photovoltaic (PV) industry, huge progress from ten years ago when it had to import raw materials and core equipment from overseas and had few domestic clients

Today, the country makes over 2/3 of the world’s major PV products, and the value of its PV industry has exceeded 750 billion yuan ($105.4 billion). In particular, the country has maintained the world’s largest producer of polycrystalline silicon and PV parts for 11 and 15 years, respectively.

China had installed 306 GW of solar power capacity as of the end of 2021, up from 6.5 GW in 2012, ranking first in the world for seven years in a row.

Ten years ago, the Chinese PV industry was seeing an over-dependence on the foreign market, slow development of key equipment and materials, as well as antidumping and countervailing duties imposed by some countries.

In 2013, China rolled out a slew of policies to support and regulate the PV industry, covering market applications, taxation, land use and many other aspects.

The policies have created a sound environment for technological innovation. The diamond wire-cutting technology, for instance, was able to lower over 30 billion yuan of cost for Chinese PV enterprises each year after being developed domestically.

Over the past 10 years, the average cost of PV generation per kilowatt-hour has been lowered by 70 percent to 0.3 yuan.

“China’s PV industry has a significant advantage It has built the world’s most complete industrial ecology that covers the manufacturing of polycrystalline silicon, silicon wafers, cells and PV parts, as well as holders, inverter and other supportive equipment,” said Wang Bohua, honorary chairman of China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA).

“The supply chain of China’s PV industry is generally independent and controllable. Once technological innovations are made, we can soon put them into use,” Wang added.

Wang introduced that China has achieved constant progress in frontier researches of PV technology. Since 2014, Chinese enterprises and research institutions have constantly improved the conversion efficiency of crystalline silicon cells.

Today, guided by the “dual carbon” goals and under the backdrop of accelerated clean energy development around the world, the major sectors of China’s PV industry have maintained a strong momentum for development. The production of polycrystalline silicon, silicon wafers, cells and PV parts surged 53.4 percent, 45.5 percent, 46.6 percent and 54.1 percent from a year ago in the first half of 2022, respectively.

The application market is also expanding, where both distributed and centralized PV installation see rapid development. During the same period, China deployed around 30.88 GW of new PV power generation, and the new distributed PV installation accounted for 63.6 percent, up 10 percentage points from a year ago.

The constructions of large-scale PV bases in deserts are in full swing. Currently, a 1 GW PV and wind power generation project is under construction in Urumqi, capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The project, built by China Huadian Corporation, includes 124 wind turbines and over 140,000 solar panels.

“In the first half of this year, we commenced 14 PV and wind power projects in Xinjiang. We plan to invest 100 billion yuan to build new energy projects with a total capacity of 20 GW between 2021 and 2025,” said Han Song, chairman of a Xinjiang branch of China Huadian Corporation.

The overseas market of China’s PV industry is also growing fast. According to CPIA statistics, China exported $25.9 billion of silicon wafers, cells and PV parts in the first half of this year, surging 113 percent from a year ago and hitting a new record high.

The association said that over 300 PV projects in China had expanded their capacity between early 2021 and June this year. As of August, there were 496,200 PV-related enterprises across China, and the number of newly established PV companies in the first eight months of this year saw year-on-year growth of over 45 percent.

Experts predicted that the PV sector will enjoy brighter prospects as PV technologies can be employed in construction, transport, energy storage, hydrogen production and other industries,