Country aims to double solar-power capacity to 10 gigawatts by 2015
XI'AN - China's solar energy industry is ready to boom in the next 10 years with the nation expected to become a major photovoltaic-module consumer after being the biggest exporter, said a senior executive with Applied Materials Inc.
The company is one of world's largest equipment suppliers by sales revenue in the solar photovoltaic industry.
"China is now not only a leader with advanced technology in the solar energy industry, it also has a lot of large-scale photovoltaic manufacturers that have developed rapidly in recent years," said Charles Gay, president of Applied Material's solar business unit. "That will boost the local solar-energy market."
Gay predicted that the next five years will provide an opportunity for China to expand its use of solar energy. "By 2018, grid parity will be met in China, two years ahead of the United States," he said.
China is the world's top solar-panel manufacturer by output.
Total production in the country occupies almost 70 percent of the global solar-energy market, which had a capacity of around 18 gigawatts (gW) in 2010.
Currently, however, the country's installed equipment for generating solar energy has a capacity of less than 1 gW.
China is likely to double its former target for solar energy capacity from 5 gW to 10 gW by 2015. It plans to achieve capacity of 50 gW by 2020.
"The Chinese government's appeal to make the nation not only the biggest photovoltaic manufacturing base, but also the largest solar-energy application market provides opportunities for players in the domestic photovoltaic industry," Gay said.
He told China Daily that Applied Materials has received a significant order for wire saws from GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd, China's largest producer of polysilicon wafers by output.
The order, representing more than 2.5 gW of energy capacity, is the largest single order Applied Materials has received.
Gay said he expected the international solar-energy industry to grow by at least 30 percent annually in the next five years, with the Chinese market being stimulated by increasing demand.
The China Electricity Council said in February that the country's electricity consumption will grow by 12 percent this year. In April, a senior official from the National Energy Administration said the country will soon overtake the United States as the largest energy consumer.
"More interestingly, solar energy can be the best solution for China, a country that uses one time system but has a large area covering three time zones. When electricity is at peak demand in the early evening in the eastern areas, the western part of China can still provide solar energy in the daytime," Gay said.
Seeing the huge potential, the US company established a solar technology center in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, in late 2009, which remains one of the world's biggest and most-advanced private solar energy research and development (R&D) facilities.
"We believe that by increasing conversion efficiencies, improving productivity, reducing manufacturing costs, and achieving economies of scale by our efforts in the R&D center, we can help China to establish a competitive, sustainable solar energy industry and expand the use of sunlight in the next years," Gay said.