China’s mass roll out of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has propelled it to first place in the global solar race, with industry data showing total solar capacity installed by the economic giant has overtaken the previous world leader Germany.
Installed solar capacity stood at 43 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2015, according to China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) figures quoted by the official state news agency Xinhua, with around 15GW new capacity installed during 2015.
Meanwhile, Reuters Newsagency reports Germany’s solar capacity now stands at around 40GW, according to data from the Federal Network Agency and Fraunhofer ISE.
The new Chinese figures match estimates released by industry body PV Market Alliance, which also showed Japan had recorded around 10GW of new installations, up from 9GW in 2014.
Alongside the solar data, the Chinese Wind Energy Association (CWEA) also released new preliminary figures on China’s wind sector.
Although the Chinese government will not release the official figures until next month, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said it expects them to match the estimates.
China now has an estimated 145GW of installed wind capacity, double the United States total and treble the level of wind capacity in Germany.
IEEFA said it expects China to install 24GW of wind power in 2016, alongside 16GW of new hydropower, 6.0GW of nuclear and 18-20GW of solar.
The European solar market also took a turn for the better: after three years of declining installations, new capacity rose from 7.0GW in 2014 to around 8.5GW in 2015, according to PV Market Alliance.
The United Kingdom and Germany continued to drive the market, installing 4.0GW and 1.4GW respectively.
Data released last week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) showed that renewable energy attracted a record US$329bn investment in 2015, a four per cent rise on 2014 levels.
The market was driven by surging investment in China, the US, Latin America and India, BNEF said.