Total Global Solar PV Capacity Now Approaching Or Over 100 GW

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Editor’s note: Solar power is growing at a very rapid clip. If the only power plants we had were power plants build within the past two years, we’d have more solar power capacity than power capacity from any other source (of course, that’s if we’re including rooftop solar power systems). Read the Solar Love repost below for some more fun facts and context.

Total global solar photovoltaic capacity is fast approaching the 100 gigawatt (100,000 megawatt) milestone, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. The report notes that even with some uncertainty present about the future state of photovoltaics in the European and Chinese markets, that global installed capacity will almost definitely hit the 100 gigawatt (GW) milestone within the year. In fact, it likely already has, probably sometime within the first quarter.

Furthermore, here’s a fact that is not well known: more solar PV power capacity was installed in 2011 than power capacity from any other source. And the same was true in 2012.

Solar panels in the Alps.
Solar panels in the Alps.
Image Credit: now picnic / / CC BY-NC-ND

The new report states that a total of 28.4 GW of new solar photovoltaic capacity were installed during 2012, which brings total global capacity up to 89.5 GW.

PV-Tech continues: “The report, Snapshot of Global PV by the International Energy Agency, looked at 23 countries. It said that another estimated 7 GW of capacity is in the pipeline which would increase the total to 96.5. GW from 2011’s 28.9 GW. And the agency said that with installations worldwide difficult to quantify with precision, the 100GW milestone has already been passed in the first quarter of this year.”

There is some disparity, though, between the new IEA report and other recent analyses, such as those from the market research firm IHS, and NPD Solarbuzz. IHS’s newest report estimated global PV installations in 2012 at 31.4 GW, and NPD Solarbuzz estimated 29 GW.

Continuing on with the report’s contents: Europe currently represents 59% of the global market, but rapid growth in the Asia Pacific region and the Americas is lessening that difference. The Middle East and Africa are both regions “in development,” but with great potential. China was the second-largest PV market for new installations in 2012, beating out the US and Italy. And China is now the third-largest PV market in terms of total capacity.

Gaëtan Masson, Operating Agent for Task 1 IEA-PVPS, stated: “Europe will decrease, with little doubt. Mainly because of the unsustainable level the market reached in some countries. Subsidy cuts are indeed responsible for the inability of the market in Europe to maintain itself at the level it reached… but the transition period from the current market to that new, sustainable one, could push the market down during some years.”

“NPD Solarbuzz reported that installations in China are expected to reach over 7GW in 2013, yet seasonality and policy incentive deadlines have already seen demand weaken in the first quarter that has had a negative knock-on effect on global PV demand in the quarter. The market research firm still expects China to account for more than 20% of global PV market demand this year.”

Impressively, for the second straight year, photovoltaic solar PV was the leading source of new electricity capacity installed, beating out wind, gas, coal, and nuclear. Some other nice stats: Italy now receives at least 5.75% of its electricity from PV, Europe as a whole receives about 2.5% of its electricity from PV, and Australia has now passed the 1% mark.

These numbers are all expected to rise significantly in the coming years as PV becomes more economically viable (in particular, in the “global sunbelt” countries). The rate of adoption on the individual- and community-level scale is expected to continue rising steeply also, especially in rural areas where electricity is currently unavailable or unreliable.

Michael Franz, project manager for the EU Energy Initiative – Partnership Dialogue Facility, a European body set up to promote access to sustainable energy in emerging economies told PV-Tech: “In particular in the ‘global sunbelt’ countries, PV is pushing into micro- and macro-economic viability. Price decreases and new business models make it possible to bring electricity access to millions of new users, especially in remote areas of developing countries with dispersed population. The market curve for PV in rural electrification is still relatively flat, but it’s steepening rapidly.”

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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