China is on track to install a record 12,000 megawatts of solar panels in 2014, according a report released today. At peak output, that’s the equivalent of a dozen huge nuclear power plants. The panels won't just give energy to China, though; they will also fuel a photovoltaic power shift in the United States.
The solar boom of recent years has largely been the result of a flood of cheap solar panels from China, home to about 80 percent of the world’s photovoltaic manufacturing capacity. But that came with a price: Chinese solar manufacturers vastly expanded production, saddling themselves with billions of dollars in debt just as revenues collapsed along with solar panel prices.
Suntech, once the world’s largest photovoltaic manufacturer, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. The company’s rivals, meanwhile, have struggled to survive, cutting corners to save money and prompting worries about a spike in the number of defective solar panels that have begun to appear in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Historically, nearly all of China’s solar panels had been exported. Over the past two years, however, a solar shift has been underway as the country’s policymakers, under pressure to do something about the country’s pollution, took a green leap forward by ordering the installation of 49,000 megawatts of renewable energy in 2013 alone.