First Time Solar PV Overtakes Wind In Annual Capacity Additions

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Originally published on RenewEconomy
by Sophie Vorrath

The year 2013 is set to become the first in which solar PV adds more megawatts of global energy capacity than wind, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

BNEF has predicted that 33.8GW of new onshore wind farms, plus 1.7GW of offshore wind, will be added globally in 2013, compared with its median forecast of 36.7GW of new PV capacity.

Last year, wind energy – onshore and offshore – added 46.6GW, while PV added 30.5GW – record figures in both cases, says the BNEF report.

This year, however, a slowdown in the world’s two largest wind markets, China and the US, is paving the way for the PV market to hit the lead. What’s more, after years of oversupply and consolidation, BNEF is predicting that technology suppliers in both sectors may see a move back to profit in 2013.

“Cost cuts and a refocusing on profitable markets and business segments have bolstered the financial performance of wind turbine makers and the surviving solar manufacturers,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF.

“Stock market investors have been noticing this change, and clean energy shares have rebounded by 66% since their lows of July 2012.”

For PV, BNEF’s head solar analyst Jenny Chase says the dramatic cost reductions, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China, are increasing the likelihood of further, strong growth in volumes.

And even the declining market of Europe, with its move away from incentives, is expected to continue to see new PV capacity added, Chase says.

For wind, BNEF is forecasting installations will shrink by nearly 25 per cent in 2013, to their lowest level since 2008, a shift that BNEF’s head of wind analysis, Justin Wu, says reflects slowdowns in the US and China caused by policy uncertainty.

“However, falling technology costs, new markets and the growth of the offshore industry will ensure wind remains a leading renewable energy technology,” says Wu.

But despite a change in rankings, onshore wind and PV will still contribute almost equally to the world’s new electricity capacity between now and 2030, says BNEF.

Wind (on and offshore) is expected to jump from 5 per cent of the world’s total installed generation capacity in 2012, to 17 per cent in 2030. While PV, is expected to grow from a 2 per cent share in 2012, to 16 per cent by 2030.

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17 thoughts on “First Time Solar PV Overtakes Wind In Annual Capacity Additions

  • Bump in the road for wind. Glad to see PV filling in.

    Are there any markets in the world where PV and Wind are not the largest growing segment of the electricity segment?

    • North Korea?

      • lol.

  • Hi Bob,

    remember we had a discussion about future energy production and what parts will be made using wind and PV? I do realise that you have to built alot more name plate capacity PV to beat the actual production of the name plate capacity of wind. However, the world is now able to produce 40GW PV a year. This is non return flight. 40GW a year is the new minimum. Solar will be king. Wind will make second but it won’t be close.

    • What’s the cost of storing solar for the non-sunny hours?

      Is it less than taking electricity straight from a wind turbine?

      If not, then explain to me how using more expensive stored solar during the ~19 hours the Sun isn’t producing but the wind often blowing will allow solar to take over.

      • Well, the majority of energy usage actually occurs during the day. With the implementation of distributed storage building of a huge grid infrastructure can be avoided. Batteries would allow to transmit the power close to where it is needed at times where the HV grid is idle at the moment.

        But my actual reason stays the same. Solar PV even with the need for some storage (I am not proposing that PV will be the only source, just the largest by a good margin) will be easier to implement. Because it is low tech. Everyone is able to install it with minimal training. Building wind turbines is something where you need a proper infrastructure with specialised companies. And you have to constantly fight of NIMBYs twats. With PV you can get the same NIMBYs on your site because eventually there won’t be any homes without a rooftop system.

        • Peak usage hours start before the Sun kicks in and continue well after it drops out.

          Wind is available during a lot of those hours and during a lot of the off-peak hours.

          Wind is cheaper than solar and is expected to remain cheaper. Storage doesn’t care where the electricity comes from and will add its cost equally to all.

          My math crystal ball differs from yours.

          • oh, this isn’t about cost efficiency. That is where you are absolutely right. It is about ease of implementation.

          • And I still mean energy not electrical power. Electricity is just a very high value energy which makes sense to create first but at the end of the day we will run everything of renewables.

          • I think I understand what you are saying. You are just expressing it as badly as I do.

    • I think this is right. The learning curve for solar is, and alway has been, steeper than the one for wind. What are the pathways for meking wind cheaper? Mainly taller towers and bigger rotors: but the swept area of the rotors increases by the square of the radius, the volume of the tower and blades goes up by a cube. Keeping the mass increase down is a constant struggle, so the annual efficiency gain is quite low. Solar does not face any parallel constraint, and the long supply chain has many points where costs are being eroded. Future solar will be cheaper than wind – much cheaper.
      Unfortunately for wind, it´s not ideally placed to act as the vizier to King Sun, because it´s intermittent itself. So to ensure reliability, we either need large-scale cheap storage, or geothermal, or CSP + storage.

      • I agree that solar will out-pace wind, but your point about wind towers is not correct. Consider Mikani’s approach, no tower. They are targeting 3c/kWh. According to Bob best in class wind towers are already down to 4c/kWh and they are also headed to 3c/kWh, by more incremental improvement.

      • Wind in the US is averaging about 5 cents/kWh and some are predicting wind to fall to 3 cents per.

        Solar, at $2/watt installed in the SW is about 7.8 cents/kWh. 9.6 cents/kWh in the NE. Getting to $1/watt is not unreasonable, which would put solar in the 4.3 cents (SW) to 5.3 cents range (NE). Call it 5 cents, avg for the lower 48.

        If the prices for wind and solar both decrease to somewhat optimistic levels, do people then see installed solar for 50 cents per watt?

        That’s what it would take to make solar as cheap as wind.

        Now, tell me how we store 19 hours of solar cheaper than using wind direct? Remember, it’s the price of solar (mythical 2 cents/kWh) plus cost of storage (cheapest we’ve got is about 6 cents).

        • 2 cents/kWh for solar (SW) + 2 cents kWh storage by 2020
          …at the end-of-grid! May not be mythical for long. We’ll see.
          (see the roof, feel the roof, be the roof 😉

          This will beat 3 cents/kWh wind + 5 cents/kWh grid.
          My psychic Ms. Olivia says predicted it!

          • EOS $160/kWh and 10,000 cycles = 1.6 cents.

            Aquion $200/kWh and 20,000 cycles = 1 cent.

            (I might have those reversed.)

            We could be looking at some very cheap storage before long. If these batteries produce as claimed and the control electronics aren’t expensive.

            I’d be surprised if we could get prices down to 2 cents by 2020. There’s going to be an enormous market for storage at 5c or less which will likely eat up production and keep prices up for a number of years.

    • Right idea, wrong explanation. It IS all about cost. James Wimberley has it correct below.
      Solar will continue to outpace wind because:
      1. Solar will be able to go lower in cost. (It is simply simpler.)
      2. Distributed solar at the end-of-grid, in combination with low cost storage, means you don’t really need a grid connection …and low cost storage is coming to the market right now.
      We use about 1/3 of our grid power in the USA for air conditioning. We can already use solar to supply all our AC power 24/7 if we use Ice Bear units with small battery powered fans.

      Very roughly half our end-of-grid electricity cost is used to pay for maintenance of the grid.

      I predict by 2020 or 2025 many homes in the USA will have found they don’t really need the grid. This will be truer in places like Australia, Hawaii, Chile, South Africa, the Middle East, India, and other places with high electricity costs and good solar resources. Some of these places have unreliable grids to begin with (India) so you will be buying into a stable power source with solar as well. Still some others do not have grids (some parts of Africa and South America). Solar will invade some of these places like cell phones did. A cost effective solution where none existed before. Wind is great, it will certainly be a big part of the mix, but it is not going to do what solar can do. Solar is going to out-class all other energy sources.

      Solar is going to be the cell phone of the power industry …suddenly

  • As the renewables market shifts toward less developed countries, solar will increasingly have the advantage that it´s less dependent on outdated grids; You can put solar plant more or less anywhere in a region and scale it within the constraints of the local grid. A single modern wind turbine is 3MW; it doesn´t work for distributed.

    Even middle-income Brazil had to crimp its last wind auction to 1.5GW not because of price – wind is now the cheapest option,at R$110/mwh – but grid and connection capacity. Imagine what it´s like in India or Indonesia.

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