Shifting tides see China and India established as solar powerhouses

6 Feb 2017

Solar panels in Tibetan mountains, China. Image: Vladimir Zhoga/Shutterstock

Western countries that have led the way in solar energy technology are being left behind, as both India and China will carry the torch for renewable energy in the decades to come.

Rapidly expanding its industry in the face of environmental protection, China is now the undeniable global leader in solar energy production.

According to Reuters, China’s National Energy Administration announced that in the space of a year, it had doubled the number of photovoltaic solar energy panels installed across the country.

This means that the country now has a capacity for 77.42GW of solar energy, having installed 34.54GW over the course of the year.

China has been waging a ‘war on pollution’ over the past three years, with the intention of cutting the amount of sulphur dioxide in the country’s air by as much as 15pc in 2020, targeting its fossil fuel power plants.

This motive was announced as part of a five-year plan last month that will also see the introduction of strict emission caps on China’s largest industries, as well as the rapidly expanding numbers of cars on its roads.

The ruling Communist government has sought out large swathes of north-west China for solar farm locations, particularly in the Gobi desert, on the border between China and Mongolia.

India playing catch up with the US

The three provinces experiencing the greatest solar boom are Shandong, Xinjiang and Henan, which are catching up with the largest capacity regions of Gansu, Qinghai and Inner Mongolia.

Despite its massive increase in solar capacity, available data shows that the 66.2bn kilowatt-hours of solar energy energy last year amounted to just 1pc of the country’s total energy output.

Meanwhile, China’s equally large neighbour India has also revealed its intentions to scale up its solar energy output.

According to the Economic Times in India, the country generated more than 9GW of solar energy by the end of last year, with the largest output coming from the Tamil Nadu region.

This will see the Asian state attempt to catch up with the US, which was estimated to produce 14GW by the end of last year.

Speaking last year, Julia Hamm from the Smart Electric Power Alliance said that the rate of expansion with solar farms in China is “way larger than anything we’ve seen in the US”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic