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Published on August 2nd, 2013 | by Important Media Cross-Post


World Solar Power Climbed Above 100,000 MW In 2012

August 2nd, 2013 by  

We write on solar power’s fast growth around the world nearly every day. There are a lot of people measuring solar power capacity and its rapid growth, but with it being such an awesomely distributed technology, and with it growing so fast, that’s pretty difficult. As such, there are different estimates of when the world will or did hit 100,000 MW of solar power capacity. The International Energy Agency thinks it’s happening sometime this year. As you can see in the repost below from the Earth Policy Institute, others think we passed that marker in 2012. Read on for the more optimistic take from the always excellent Earth Policy Institute, via sister site Sustainablog:

World Solar Power Topped 100,000 Megawatts in 2012 (via sustainablog)

By J. Matthew Roney The world installed 31,100 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012—an all-time annual high that pushed global PV capacity above 100,000 megawatts. There is now enough PV operating to meet the household electricity needs of…

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-- CleanTechnica is one of 18 blogs in the Important Media blog network. With a bit of overlap in coverage, we sometimes repost some of the great content published by our sister sites.

  • Sparks Network

    Great article and great analysis… Thanks for sharing… However, just wanted to make one correction for India. In India at some of the states the Solar Energy has become even cheaper than the conventional sources…

    Please refer http://www.powerind.in/2013/08/rec-mechanism-helped-solar-projects-in.html#.Uf_UaNIwf50

  • Robert

    If it comes to Germany, the Energiewende has failed. It has now become a problem for the politicians to explain to the people that have been bombarded with
    environmental propaganda for the last 30 years who are actually responsible for
    the billion Euros of wasteful investment.

    Like in Australia, the less well of citizens are forced by the German Government to pay for the solar and wind waste.

    To counteract to collapse of the power network Germany commissioned two coal power stations last year and will add other four this year; naturally that increased German CO2 output by 2.5% last year.

    The newly wealthy windmill owners are fighting now every inch to maintain this new income stream of Euros. Wind and solar has created a lot of new millionaires and pushed a lot of Germans into poverty.
    In desperation to stop the power price becoming totally unaffordable the German Government is stopping all support for solar within the months and wind power has been slowed specifically offshore. The German elections will be shortly after the
    Australian ones and it will be interesting to see what the policies will be after.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Robert, please show us one decent study that proves Energiewende has failed.

      German’s new coal plants were begun long before the decision to close nuclear plants and to install lots of renewables. They are replacements for existing inefficient plants. Once the new plants are in place the older plants will be decommissioned and Germany will have less coal capacity than it did before.

      Show us a study that proves renewables have pushed Germans into poverty.

      And the problem with German offshore wind is that they failed to get the transmission line in place before the turbines were completed.

      Robert, this is not a site where one is allowed to show up and lie without getting called on it.

      Just thought you’d like to know….

  • Jerry Graf

    Global Solar Power Capacity Surpasses 100,000 MW: Why is this significant?


    • Bob_Wallace

      Gosh, Jerry, you really don’t have a clue, do you? You even wrote a whole page on the web making that very evident.

      OK, let’s see if we can catch you up.

      The planet is heating at a very alarming rate due to humans burning fossil fuels, releasing methane and a few other not-advisable moves on our part.

      We’re going to screw ourselves badly. Very badly, if we don’t quit using fossil fuels. And that means that in order to maintain our comfy lifestyles we need to quickly switch to non-carbon based energy.

      Two options: 1) nuclear which we spent many, many billions of dollars on trying to make it affordable (and have failed) and 2) renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, etc. on which we’ve spent relatively tiny amount of money and which are getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper.

      100,000 MW, it’s an arbitrary number. But we like to watch the odometer kick over from 99,999 to 100,000.

      Now, you finish your web page out with the questions: “Why are we typically not asking the truly pertinent questions about how much it costs and what it really produces??”

      Gosh, Jerry, we’re doing exactly that.

      Wind is now our second cheapest way to bring new electricity on line. It should soon be the cheapest.

      Solar costs are dropping like lead feathers in a pillow fight. Solar is already cheaper than using gas peaker turbines to supply the extra demand we have in the middle of the day and within a few years should be cheaper than natural gas, becoming our second cheapest way to generate electricity.

      What does wind and solar really produce? We’ll in 2012 wind produced 3.5% of all US electricity. Seeing how wind has just recently become cheap and we’re just starting to get underway with large scale wind installation, that’s pretty danged good.

      Solar is trailing wind quite a bit. Solar is just now becoming affordable without large subsidies. Solar is going to take off like gang busters.

      Remember, at one time the US got 0.0% of its electricity from coal. Over the years coal rose to produce about 57% of our electricity before it peaked and started its death march. It’s now down to 37% with major plant closures scheduled.

      Wind and solar, along with other renewables, will now be stepping up to fill the fossil fuel gap. We’ll look back at 100,000 MW of wind as the olden days when wind was tiny. But one has to get to tiny before they make it to huge.

      Hope this helps you understand things better.

      • Jerry Graf

        Gee Bob, it might help a bit more if you cut down on the condescending attitude and actually answered the questions.

        You say solar is cost effective and getting cheaper, but I still don’t see any dollar figures or real production figures (MW-hours per year) in your response . How much did it cost to install? How much does it cost to operate and maintain? How much actual electricity
        (MW-hours) does it produce per MW of installed capacity? How much does it really displace coal? If it is so effective, why do we have to reimburse people with taxpayer money to install it, and pay extra for the electricity via Power Purchase Agreements and Feed-in-Tariffs to make it economically feasible?

        The discussion could also be more helpful if you could also cut back on the typical global warming hysterics. If you read anything of the other information I posted you would know that I fully recognize we need to alter our energy strategy. If CO2 emissions are keeping you up at night, there are more effective ways to produce more reliable electricity and at the same time reduce CO2
        emissions by a much larger factor. We don’t have to line the pockets of solar panel snake-oil salesmen with taxpayer money.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Well, geeze, Jerry. If your attitude toward solar didn’t stink you’d probably have received some respect.

          You want numbers? OK. What I’m going to give you is some ‘best case’ numbers. Solar prices are falling fast and best case numbers tell us where we’re arriving at the moment.

          Average installed solar prices in Germany, that’s an average of residential and commercial rooftop along with utility scale is now € 1.560/W as of the end of July 2013. A bit over $2/W.

          Germany is in the lead because their government did a better job with their subsidy program.


          The City of Palo Alto, CA just signed a 30 year PPA for 6.9cents per kWh. Back out the federal subsidy and that’s roughly 10c/kWh.


          New Mexico recently signed a PPA with First Solar for electricity at 5.7c/kWh. Back out the federal and state subsidy and it’s just over 10c/kWh.


          The site near Leicestershire in the English Midlands is now the location of Britain’s largest solar farm. The facility is 34 megawatts in size and will prevent the emission of approximately 170,000 tonnes of CO2 over its lifespan, which is equivalent to shovelling about 58,000 tonnes of coal back into the ground.

          The solar farm cost just over one pound a watt or $54 million. That’s in either Australian or US dollars as they currently both convert into exactly the same number of British pounds. (No doubt a fun day for currency traders.) This gives a cost of $1.59 a watt and according to a report commissioned last year by the British Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, it is 20% less than their figure for large scale solar in 2012.


          Deutsche Bank said that although the market in Europe had contracted, at least one third of new, small to mid size projects were being developed without subsidies. Multi-megawatt projects were being built south of Rome for €90c/W. This was delivering electricity costs (LCOE – with 80 per cent self consumption) of around €80/MWh (€8c/kWh)

          €90c = $1.20

          A completely unsubsidized 250 MW solar energy project is currently being developed in the north-western region of Cádiz, Spain — near the town of Trebujena.

          The €275 million project will be built over a period of 2–3 years in five separate phases of 50 MW each. The first phase is expected to be connected by the end of 2015, and the final phase by the end of 2017.

          Once completed, the solar park will feature somewhere around 90,000 PV panels, which will generate about 420,000 MWh a year. That’s enough to power around 117,000 homes in the region, according to Tentusol.

          250 MW for €275 million.

          €1,1/watt. $1.43/watt.


          $1.43/watt in the sunny Southwest. Less than $0.06/kWh.

          $1.55/watt in India

          The solar park will be located in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu. This solar park is expected to attain 70 MW of capacity by January, and the full 100 MW goal by April 2014.

          A crore in South Asia is 10 million. So the report says the project will cost 9.2 bn rupees, or $155 million, at $1.55 a watt.


          So, it should be obvious that solar is getting quite affordable. I suppose you’re familiar with the clearing price for peak hour power which means that you will see that solar is going to be bringing those prices down in the US like they did in Germany last year. In 2012 Germany saved about 5 billion euros thanks to solar.


          Germany is saving EUR 8 billion a year in fossil fuel import costs right now


          Solar at $1.50/W in the lower 48 would deliver non-subsidized electricity from 5.5c/kWh in the sunny Southwest to 7c/kWh in the not-sunny Northeast. Throw in the EIA’s estimate of 0.4 cents/kWh for O&M. Call it 6c to 7.4c/kWh.

          And we’re on our way to $1/watt installed. Thanks to taxpayer investments.

          Solar hit grid parity in 102 countries in 2012.


          Let’s see, you asked about displacing coal. Australia, as you might know, is one coal-burning state. Coal is a major product for them.

          “AGL Energy, one of the big three power utilities in Australia, says that 9,000MW of fossil-fuel baseload capacity needs to be taken out of the national electricity market (NEM) to bring it back into balance.

          The claim was made by managing director Michael Fraser, on Wednesday, at the announcement that AGL Energy had secured extra financing for its155MW solar PV project in western NSW – the first solar project of its scale to be built in Australia.


          “We have got an oversupplied wholesale market,” Fraser told RenewEconomy on the sidelines of the announcement.

          “There is too much baseload relative to where demand has got to, and rooftop solar has impacted on demand … and that has impacted on the economics of coal-fired generators.

          “We guess there is around 9,000MW of oversupply in the market. That’s not helpful, either for existing assets or for trying to get new projects off the ground.”

          That assessment of 9,000MW equates to nearly one-third of the country’s baseload generation – a sure sign that renewables, and in particularly rooftop solar, are changing the dynamics of the market.”


          So here we have solar creating a 9 GW coal capacity to become unneeded. One third of Australia’s remaining coal capacity is going to be shut. (Some has already gone off line.)

          Did I answer your questions?

          • Jerry Graf

            Palo Alto – PPA for selling the power at $0.10.KWh, which is about double the current market value annual average wholesale cost. No info on cost of installation or who is paying for it. No information on expected annual electricity production

            New Mexico – PPA for selling the power at $0.10.KWh,
            which is about double the current market value annual average wholesale cost. No info on cost of installation or
            who is paying for it. No information on expected annual electricity production.

            Leicestershire UK Solar Farm – You indicate $54 million
            for 34 MW, but provide no information regarding annual production. Elsewhere I found another ambiguous reference
            to the farm producing enough electricity for 7,500 homes. Since UK use is listed as 4,648 KWh/home, this leads me to arrive at about 35,000 MWh/year, which is a capacity factor of 11.8% (not really very good). At wholesale price of electricity in UK of $70 per MWh the rough ROI is 22 years
            (not really very good, and ignores O&M costs and typical annual decline in efficiency of PV panels). Using the same
            $54 million to buy natural gas combined cycle gas turbines could have provided 335,000 MWh/year (more than 9 times the electricity), displacing 4 to 5 times more annual CO2 emissions from coal.

            Cadiz, Spain – With the sunshine in Spain and a supposed capacity factor of 19% (per your figures) this is looking like the best case you have, but there is no information about what the electricity from the solar project will cost, and
            what the normal market value is in Spain. Regardless, this project can still be outperformed by natural gas at both electricity production and CO2 elimination. Nothing here indicates that natural gas is not still the superior option in most cases in the USA.

            This is all I’ve gotten to so far. I have to go to work every day so I can pay taxes to support all the taxing and spending.


            No, nobody told me that solar panels were bad investments; I looked at the facts and realized that the information I was seeing indicated that in many many cases they were bad investments. I continue to look at the information, and do get frustrated regarding the deliberate avoidance of pertinent information I find in most reports. Apparently, however, someone told you they were good investments, and you bought into the story.

            With regard to subsidies see http://jerrygraf.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/energy-subsidies-in-the-usa/

            It’s really heartwarming to know that you feel justified in assuming anyone who disagrees with you, or has the audacity to hold an alternative opinion, has an attitude that “stinks” and is not worthy of your respect.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, Jerry. The Palo Alto PPA selling price is 6.9c and the New Mexico PPA selling price is 5.7c. The non-subsidized price would be around 10c.

            That’s cheaper than electricity from a new nuclear plant and it’s cheaper than electricity from coal if all costs are included.

            You asked for prices. You got them.

            The price of power in the middle of the day is much more than off peak power. Solar is producing for less than the cost of a gas peaking plant.

            The UK, Spain and ‘south of Rome’ numbers are examples of how inexpensively solar is being installed in other parts of the world. That ~$1.50/W would mean US non-subsidized prices well under 10c/kWh.

            I’m so sorry that paying taxes is chaffing your inner thighs. Try complaining about the real waste of tax dollars like the cost of three oil wars, a billion dollars a day spent on the health and environmental damage caused by coal, and the many billions spent on nuclear energy which does nothing but keep getting higher.

            Worry about the tax dollars you’re going to have to pay for building sea walls around our coastal cities and how your food costs are going to go up as our crop lands get screwed.

            Worry not about relatively small expenditures which are producing major savings.

            Come on, Jerry, I know you can grasp these very simple facts.

          • Matt

            You also have to look at time of day that the power is provide under this PPA. Its is during peak time, so you have to compare to a peak plant. Also on top of all the money given fossil fuel mention about, there is also the heath impacts.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Now, I can tell from this that you’re all a-flutter over subsidies for renewables.

          ” If it is so effective, why do we have to reimburse people with taxpayer money to install it, and pay extra for the electricity via Power Purchase Agreements and Feed-in-Tariffs to make it economically feasible?

          I’ll bet someone told you that they are bad investments of taxpayer money, didn’t they?”

          Well, Jerry, new technologies generally need some help getting established. It’s hard to compete against a mature technology even if the new technology is in some ways superior and is likely, in the long run, to be cheaper.

          We subsidize energy in the US. We’ve been doing it for over 100 years. Some of those subsidies have paid off and some haven’t.

          Over the first 15 years of these energy sources’ subsidies, oil and gas got 5 times what renewables got (in 2010 dollars) and nuclear energy got 10 times as much. (Plus, much of the renewable subsidies went to corn farms, not to wind and solar.)

          Between 1918 and 2009 oil and gas received average annual subsidies of $4.86 billion. (92 x $4.86 billion = $447 billion)

          Between 1947 and 1999 nuclear received average annual subsidies of $3.50 billion. (53 x $3.50 billion = $185.6 billion)

          Between 1980 and 2009 biofuel received average annual subsidies of $1.08 billion. (29 x $1.08 billion = $31 billion)

          Between 1994 and 2009 renewables received average annual subsidies of $0.37 billion. (15 x $0.37 = $6 billion.)


          Renewables received 92% less per year than oil and gas, 89% less than nuclear and 76% less than biofuels. And for many fewer years.

          How have those subsidies paid off?

          In the last 30 or so years the cost of wind-electricity has dropped from $0.38/kWh to $0.06/kWh. A 6x drop.

          The price of solar panels has fallen from around $100/watt to just above $0.50/watt. Almost a 200x drop.

          As we all know the price of fossil fuels and nuclear just keeps going up. (Aside from a short term drop in the price of natural gas.)

          So, Jerry, look back over the numbers and ask yourself where we’ve invested the majority of our energy dollars.

          When you figure out that nuclear and fossil fuels got the vast majority and corn for ethanol got a decent sized hunk then ask yourself what results that investment brought us.

          Which prices have gone up and which have gone down?

          Wouldn’t you agree that our wind and solar investments have paid off handsomely and are bringing us clean, affordable energy while our fossil fuel and nuclear investments have been a failure?

          (BTW, that’s not a complete accounting for fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies. It doesn’t include the health and environmental damage costs created by burning coal. It doesn’t include the trillions of dollars we’ve spent on our three oil wars. It doesn’t include the liability assumed by taxpayers in the event of a nuclear melt down and the cost of long term nuclear waste storage.

          Add those in and the differences get truly immense.)

  • Matt

    Could someone help me get this into context. — warning I need someone to check my Sunday morning math —
    -A MW of PV name plate depending on amount of converts to Wh by taking 8766 hour/year * “sun factor” (I see range of like 10%-20%)
    – So 876.6MWh to 1753.2MWh, which if right would convert 100GWs(above) would be about 877-1750 TWhs. Call it 0.9-1.7PWh (rounding)
    – If I assume this link http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=xx&v=81 is close; then 2012 world electric consumption was about 19PWh I’ve seen higher so lets call it 20PWh.
    -That would mean the PV provided 4.4% to 8.8% of consumption (mostly during peak usage).
    Now that might not sound like a lot, but almost all added in last 4 years and we will add 33% of that total in 2013. Look at the chart, at the start of 2008 total installed was about half of what will be install this year! Now is the time to really start the chant. “Deploy baby deploy!”

  • jburt56

    How about 1 TW by 2020?

    • Matt

      While it sounds like a lot, it is doable. First I see estimates of over 52GWs for 2013 let me assume 50GW. I’ll look where we end 2020 with a constant growth of 10GW and then some % growths. Numbers are in GWs.

      2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Total
      10GW 100 + 50 + 60 + 70 + 80 + 90 + 100 + 110 + 120 = 730
      20% 100 + 50 + 60 + 72 + 86 + 104 + 124 + 149 + 179 = 875
      30% 100 + 50 + 65 + 85 + 110 + 143 + 186 + 241 + 314 = 1243
      40% 100 + 50 + 70 + 98 + 137 + 192 + 269 + 376 + 527 = 1770

      Its hard to see the future, but a lot more people can make money installing panels now than 4 (or even 2) years ago; a big thanks to Europe, Auz, and China for making that happen. And as zoning improves and markets else where mature it gets better fast. So saying 0.75TW-2.0TW isn’t to risky of a statement.

      Note ~40% growth between 2010 and 2012 and >100% between 2009 and 2010. Of course your future may vary. And for a lot of people this is really big news, they have no idea what has happen in last 4 years, and what is possible in next 8 years.

  • JamesWimberley

    This isn’t news to those of us who have been paying attention. Still, repetition from an official, conservative source (IEA) always helps.

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