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Achieving Smart Growth: China’s Push For 10 GW Solar Capacity In 2015

Solar panels in Kunming, China

Those worried about the implications of China’s economic growth on the environment will be somewhat reassured by the nation’s recent plans to incorporate renewable energy as a cornerstone of future power generation. In fact, solar power alone is set for an increase in capacity to 10 gigawatts by 2015 – a huge increase from the current 860,000 kilowatts derived from solar power in China now.

And these projections are not just empty targets. China has devised a three pronged approach to increase its solar power capacity:

  1. Construct grid-connected solar power projects in Western China where there are sufficient solar energy resources (sunlight). The country seeks to develop 5 gigawatts of solar power capacity in Western China.
  2. Promote rooftop solar power systems in urban areas
  3. Promote photovoltaic power generation in China’s 100 pilot cities for new energy and 200 counties for green energy.

This focus on renewables is hugely important for a country that is determined to make the transition from an export dominated economy to a consumer-driven one. That is, China seeks to drive its economy through its own domestic market rather than solely through its global exports. However, there are clearly some major environmental concerns that need to be considered with the addition of 1.3 billion new consumers to the world.

China is aware of these concerns, and has embarked on a concerted effort to reduce its carbon footprint while achieving economic growth. It overtook the US in wind power generation in 2010, while investing 40% more than America in clean technology as a whole. Clearly this recent push in solar power is a sign the China intends to take the lead when it comes to investing in a newer, cleaner economy. And the time seems ripe to initiate such a push, as the drop in cost for solar energy is between 10 – 20% each year.

This is exactly what countries need to be doing if they want to solidify their economic growth well into the 21st century.

Oil is old news. It is a dirty energy source of the 20th century, shrouded in political turmoil and major environmental impacts. China has realized this and is improving its competitive edge for when the shift to renewable energy will be a necessity rather than a choice.

But despite this push from China to incorporate renewables such as solar power in its energy portfolio, other countries have been hesitant to adopt such bold plans. Why is this? Are their economic systems too imbedded in a fossil fuel economy? Are vested interests too powerful?

What are your thoughts?

Image CC licensed by Matthijs Koster: Solar panels in Kunming

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UM7ID6SE7G5CIRYO5T2K6UIFPA Made Off

    Fantastic article.  I think the West is slow to embrace renewables because the power elite is unable to give up on the huge profit that is oil. They don’t care where their oil comes from! Whether it be oil from the nations they invade or the dirty tar sands of Alberta, not oil is too dirty for them. 

  • http://www.the9billion.com jjprojects

    It’s certainly not going to be easy to transition to renewables, but it looks like it’s starting to happen – some countries faster than others for sure.

  • Joseph Tohill

    Yup, I totally agree. I’m actually from Canada, and the tar sands are huge here… our current federal government is a huge supporter of exporting oil from the tar sands, and they are even looking into putting a pipeline in from Edmonton to the West Coast to begin exporting oil to China as well. Unfortunately, I think it’s tarnishing our global reputation and is a step back in terms promoting a sustainable future.