China Boosts 2015 Solar Energy Target Again

China is moving again to prop up its domestic solar industry by dramatically raising its target for the amount of solar to be installed domestically.

The world’s biggest maker of solar panels is upping its already enormous target of 15 gigawatts (GW), announced last December, to 21 GW by 2015. Analysts even see this new target as very conservative, expecting actual solar installations to surpass 30 GW by then.

For perspective, consider that US solar installations rose a whopping 85% in the first quarter of 2012, doubling the record-breaking first quarter set a year ago. Total US solar capacity could reach 3.3 GW by the end of 2012, the low end of what China will install each year.

In February, China released its Solar Five Year Plan, which includes a target for its domestic manufacturers of 5 GW a year by 2015. The plan also targets a reduction in solar panel prices to $1,111 per kilowatt (kW) by 2015, and $794 per kW by 2020. 

As of 2011, China has 2 GW of solar capacity, and analysts widely expect installations of 3-5 GW a year through the rest of the decade. But the pace could very well be quicker.

"With a significant tumble in photovoltaic prices, the timetable for mass use is ahead of time," Lian Rui, a senior analyst for  research firm Solarbuzz, told Bloomberg. "The new target is still very conservative; we expect installations to surpass 30 gigawatts."

The Chinese government’s domestic solar commitment seeks, in part, to mitigate the impact of the cuts to Germany and other EU county’s feed-in tariffs, and new US solar tariffs, which could dampen growth for Chinese solar manufacturers. 

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