(Bloomberg) -- China’s blistering roll-out of solar capacity slowed as grids struggled to build enough power lines and backup capacity.

The country installed 45.7 gigawatts of photovoltaic panels in the first three months, up more than a third from a year earlier, the National Energy Administration said in a statement on Monday. While impressive compared with other countries, the growth rate pales in comparison with the 154% surge in the same quarter of 2023.

China, which still gets most of its electricity from coal, added a record 217 gigawatts of solar panels last year — more than the US has ever built. Installations are seen at as much as 220 gigawatts this year, according to forecasts from the solar industry association.  

That expansion will likely be driven by utility-scale projects, especially the massive renewables program concentrated in the country’s interior deserts, according to BloombergNEF. The nation needs to ensure the new capacity has the requisite infrastructure to transmit clean power from less-populated inland areas to consumption centers. 

Read More: Grid Snarls Pose Challenge to China’s Massive Desert Energy Push

Rooftop solar, which tends to be in more urban areas and has in recent years accounted for about half of capacity growth, is also facing grid challenges. Local networks have struggled with the large amount of intermittent electricity, and have been forced to curtail their generation or allow prices to go negative during low-demand time periods.

That has had a knock-on effect on the utilization of solar. The average panel generated about 8% less power in the first quarter from a year earlier, Monday’s data show.

The government is stepping up efforts to bolster grids in order to continue the clean energy expansion and and meet its decarbonization goals. The NEA and the National Development and Reform Commission announced a plan earlier this year to enable the grid to connect 500 gigawatts of small-scale renewables by 2025, while grid companies also pledged to build more high-voltage long-distance power lines. 

The country also added 15.5 gigawatts of wind, 6.4 gigawatts of thermal, and 1.8 gigawatts of hydro power capacity in the first three months, the NEA said. 

--With assistance from Dan Murtaugh.

(Updates with chart, grid curtailment in sixth paragraph)

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