China May Double Solar Goal after Japan Leak
   2011-03-30 20:45:57    Xinhua      Web Editor: Yu

China may lift its 5-year goal for solar power capacity from five gigawatts (GW) to 10 GW by 2015, a National Energy Administration (NEA) official told Xinhua Wednesday.

Shi Lishan, deputy director of the renewable energy department of the NEA, confirmed a media report on the possible adjustment of photovoltaic (PV) industry's future capacity.

In light of recent nuclear crisis in Japan, the revision is likely to be approved though it is still under discussion, according to an article from the Wednesday edition of the China Securities Journal.

China may fine tune its nuclear power development plan, as the nuclear crisis in Japan has triggered safety concerns, the article said.

Shortly after Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was crippled by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami in March 11, which led to radioactive leak, the State Council, or China's cabinet, said it would "adjust and improve" China's nuclear plan and has already suspended its approval process for new nuclear power stations.

However, officials have not yet indicated any possible change for the country's long-term nuclear energy plan.

China plans to use non-fossil fuels to supply 15 percent of its total power by 2020, up from the current level of 8 percent. Nuclear power is expected to account for 4 percent of the country's power needs.

Therefore, any scaling back of China's nuclear plans will require a commensurate increase in wind, solar and hydroelectric energy if the country still plans to meet its 2020 target, the article said.

PV producers are confident that solar power is the most likely to fill the supply gap as hydroelectric development is facing a lot of pressures such as environment and the evacuation of local residents.

In addition, wind power is still limited by underdeveloped ultra-high voltage transmission lines, according to a quote from the article by Xu Hongjian, vice president of Yingli Solar's Beijing office.

Yingli Solar is one of China's largest PV suppliers.

China is the largest solar panel producer in the world, but 90 percent of these panels are sold overseas, according to Huang Xinming, head of a research institute at JA Solar, another large Chinese solar power company.

Solar power produced in China only accounts for 1 percent of the world's total, mainly due to its relatively high cost compared to thermal power and hydroelectric power, Huang said.

"Japan's nuclear leak has made many countries rethink the safety issues of nuclear power, which will give other clean energy sources, especially solar power, an opportunity to develop even faster," said Huang.

Although it is costly, solar power has great development potential due to rich availability and rapid technological advancement, he said.

According to Huang, the Hebei-based JA Solar company has just developed a new technology that could cut the cost of producing silicon, an important material in manufacturing solar panels, by 60 percent.

The cost of an entire solar cell production line could be reduced by 10 percent, he said.

In addition to these cost cuts, the new technology could also increase the efficiency of solar panels manufactured with the new technology in place, Huang said.

JA Solar has spent 30 million yuan (4.57 million U.S.dollars) to develop the technology, he said.

"This practice will play a big role in promoting China's solar industry," said Chen Chao, a solar power engineering professor at Fujian-based Xiamen University. Chen was also a member of an expert panel which evaluated the new JA Solar technology.

China continued to solidify its position last year as the world's green investment leader, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S.-based Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit, non-governmental organization.

The report said that Germany and the United States follow China as the world's biggest green investors.

Clean energy investments in China reached 54.4 billion dollars in 2010, up 39 percent from the previous year, the report said.

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