China stands third, behind Japan and Germany, in terms of its share of photovoltaic-manufacturing capacity, according to a Worldwatch Institute report released in November.
The report estimated that China was set to invest $10 billion in renewable energy last year, second only to Germany. That's out of about $150 billion invested in green energy worldwide last year, Pernick said.
The U.S. Department of Commerce set China's investment in renewable energy last year at an even higher $12 billion, and projects that the country will invest $175 billion in protecting the environment in the next five years as it strives to meet its renewable goals, according to CNBC.
That growth is linked not only to China's role as an offshore home for foreign manufacturers, but also to its pressing need for new renewable energy sources, the Worldwatch Institute said.China hopes to boost its green-electricity generation from 17% of its overall generation capacity today to 21% by 2020. The Worldwatch Institute said China could well exceed those goals, pushing its renewable power capacity to as much as 400 gigawatts by 2020, up from 135 gigawatts in 2006. So far, solar photovoltaic power projects within China remain "in their infancy" compared to Japan, Germany and the United States, and China's hopes for a large-scale domestic market for grid-integrated photovoltaic projects remains a few years out, according to the report. That's not as much the case with wind power, which the report called China's fastest-growing renewable-energy source. China will need to invest $21 billion to $28 billion if the country is to meet its goal of 30 gigawatts of production by 2020, up from to 1.2 gigawatts in 2005, the Commerce Department reported. China now has more than 50 domestic wind turbine manufacturers, the Worldwatch Institute said. "They're also becoming a dominant wind player in terms of deployment," Pernick said of China. "The question is, 'What might happen in terms of manufacturing?'"