New photovoltaic projects on agricultural land are playing a pivotal role in the rapid growth of distributed PV power generation in China, with more than 300 MW of PV projects now being tracked in the NPD Solarbuzz China Deal Tracker report.
An increasing number of PV project developers in central and eastern China are now prioritizing these new opportunities, especially in the provinces of Xinjiang, Hunan and Hubei. The China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group (CECEP) is currently targeting more than 100 MW of PV projects specifically within the agricultural segment.
‘The agricultural PV market segment in China was previously overlooked by downstream PV suppliers and installers,’ says Steven Han, an analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. ‘However, with the threat of anti-dumping actions from the United States and Europe potentially restricting their available sales channels, creating additional demand locally is now essential for both module and balance-of-systems suppliers.
‘Greenhouses have become a popular choice for agricultural PV installations because they offer benefits in addition to a supply of electricity,’ he adds. ‘PV panels located on greenhouses can shield the sunlight, replace building materials and add to the overall aesthetics.’
With farmland in short supply in Central and Eastern China, installing ground-mounted PV can be a challenge. Therefore, rooftop PV installations have become a higher priority, with the most attractive developments often combining agricultural applications with PV generation, NPD Solarbuzz says.
This mutually beneficial arrangement allows PV developers to benefit from the PV power generation while providing the farmers with a revenue stream. For example, in 2011, Zhongli Talesun and China Power Investment developed a 9.8 MW PV project on the roof of a mushroom plant. Smaller-scale installations have been enabled by China's Golden Sun programs.
Commercial agricultural PV projects continue to receive the backing of top-tier PV developers in China, and this new segment is forecast to grow rapidly in the coming years, according to the report. Developers are trying to find additional land space in both central and eastern China in an effort to further boost domestic PV demand.