China's rooftops hold power to propel solar into the mass market
* China challenges Germany as world's top solar producer
* Rise has come from large-scale parks, not on roofs
* Subsidies, falling costs make rooftop solar more attractive
By Adam Rose
BEIJING, Dec 8 (Reuters) - China may be on the verge of finally cracking the crucial urban and suburban solar market thanks to a new funding model that allows buyers to have panels installed for free.
The world's largest producer of photovoltaic panels has built massive solar farms in the country's deserts, but a disappointing take-up of solar power in cities and industrial hubs has meant the country has fallen well short of official targets.
Even as China is set to overtake Germany as the country with the world's highest installed solar capacity, growth in small-scale solar such as rooftop panels has been so weak that planners didn't even bother setting new targets this year for installations under 20 megawatts (MW) in size.
But the arrival of third-party financing models, already popular in the United States, could help China unlock the potential of solar like Germany and Japan, where rooftop panels helped to boost capacity and bring record levels of renewable energy into the power mix.
"The options today in China are a lot better than they were 12 months ago," said Ross Allan, director of business administration at Dulwich College, Suzhou, an international school which is considering installing panels. Continued...