China, a consistent leader in solar power production and installation, is having another banner year with 25 gigawatts of solar energy being installed in June and July alone. It is estimated that China is capable of installing over 50GW of solar energy by the end of 2017. As of October 1, approximately 42GW of solar energy had been installed, though the pace of installations is expected to slow in October. Although China’s solar boom yields economic benefits, a self-interest understanding of the need to protect the environment also drives the movement. “Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at the National Congress of China’s Communist Party. “This is a reality we have to face.”
Much of the recent growth has been concentrated in the non-utility distributed solar sector, in part because China is pushing a new program called Top Runner, which aims to install more efficient solar panels in smaller projects. By any measure, China is absolutely dominating the global solar race. In 2016, the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people installed 34GW of solar power, the most ever by any country in a single year. In contrast, the United States, in the second place position for added capacity in 2016, added only 14.6GW of solar power.
Although China’s solar energy domination has proven to be valuable in the export market, with many of the components for solar systems around the world being produced locally, the domestic impact of its deliberate, consistent investment in solar energy is undeniable. In transforming its energy economy, out of necessity and strategy, China may provide important global climate leadership in a time when the United States has ceded its authority in this realm. “Taking a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change, China has become an important participant, contributor, and torchbearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization,” said President Xi Jinping. “[China must] develop a new model of modernization with humans developing in harmony with nature.”