Published on April 13th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


World Solar Power Capacity Increased 35% In 2013 (Charts)

April 13th, 2014 by  

With about 37,007 megawatts (MW) of solar PV power installed in 2013, world solar PV power capacity increased about 35% to 136,697 MW.

Whereas Europe had dominated annual growth for years up until 2013 (10 years, to be precise), solar PV growth was much more evenly split last year, and China actually topped the tables.

Here are two charts from EPIA with more details (h/t CleanTechnica reader Bob Wallace):

global annual solar installation

world solar power capacity

“While Europe concentrated more than 70% of the world’s new PV installations in 2011 and still around 59% a year later, with more than 10 GW of new capacity installed in 2013, Europe only accounted for 28% of the world’s market.” Nonetheless, Europe still saw fairly large growth in solar PV capacity, especially when you compare that to most other energy sources. Here’s a chart showing net generation capacity change in the EU 28 for various energy sources:

EU net generation capacity change


Aside from being the #2 source of new electricity generation capacity in 2013, solar PV now accounts for about 3% of electricity demand in Europe and about 6% of peak electricity demand (remember that solar panels provide electricity in the daytime, when electricity demand is higher).

Nonetheless, there’s no denying the EU market was not nearly as strong in 2013 as in previous years. Austerity measures have been especially harmful. EPIA notes: “European PV markets have experienced a slowdown. In a number of European countries, this can be explained by harmful and retrospective measures that have badly affected investors’ confidence and PV investments viability. Italy in particular experienced a 70% market decrease compared to the year before. Germany also experienced in 2013 a steep PV market decrease (57% decrease compared to 2012).”

Note that these aren’t final numbers. “EPIA will publish in June 2014 consolidated and detailed historical figures and forecasts in its ‘Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2014-2018’ report,” the preliminary report states.

Nonetheless, it was definitely a record year. 37,007 MW is a big step above 29,865 MW and 30,282 MW (the totals for 2012 and 2011, respectively).

Here are some other notes from the EPIA preliminary report:

Top 3 global countries

  • China was the n°1 global market with around 11.3 GW connected to the grid.
  • With around 6.9 GW, Japan was the second global biggest market in 2013.
  • The US ranked n°3 with 4.8 GW.

Evolution of European markets

  • Germany was the top European market with 3.3 GW (down from 7.6 GW in 2012).
  • Several European markets were close to the gigawatt mark: Italy (between 1.1 GW and 1.4 GW), UK (in between 1 GW and 1.2 GW), Romania (1.1 GW) and Greece (1.04 GW).
  • Other European markets that performed well in the past went significantly down in 2013, resulting from political decisions aimed at reducing the level of support to PV: Belgium (from 600 MW in 2012 to 215 MW in 2013), France (from 1.1 GW to 613 MW), Denmark (from 300 MW to around 200 MW).
  • Over the last three years however, outside Germany and Italy, the size of the European PV market has been relatively stable, at around 6 GW per year, thanks to the growth in some countries that has balanced the decline in others.
  • Some markets in Europe have an almost untapped PV potential, Hungary, Poland and Turkey for instance. The PV potential in countries like France and Spain is still largely unexploited.

Evolution of Asian markets

  • China and Japan have led the dynamism of the Asian PV market (with respectively around 11.3 GW and 6.9 GW).
  • Several Asian markets continued to grow at a moderate pace: India (1.1 GW), Korea (442 MW), Thailand (317 MW).

Check out the full EPIA report for more.

And for a related but different look at solar PV growth in 2013, as well as projections for 2014, also see: “Solar Power Breaks World Record In Q1, IHS Raises 2014 Forecast To 46,000 MW.” From that article, here’s a chart on quarterly growth over the past few years and projected growth up through Q1 2015:

world-solar-power-capacity-growth (1)

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Bob_Wallace

    I think you’re asking about the lifetime carbon footprint of solar.

    It’s extremely lower than the lifetime carbon footprint of coal, oil and natural gas.

    It’s so low that it’s not worth considering. Just get more solar on line and leave fossil fuels in the ground.

  • Guest
  • Keith

    question. when taking renewables as a whole while is hydro never included? and always specifes not including hydro??

    • Bob_Wallace

      I suspect there’s more than one reason. Hydro is a mature technology and quite large in relationship to other renewables. Including hydro numbers with the currently small wind/solar/geothermal would tend to mask growth in the ‘non-hydro’s.

      I suspect another part is a general desire on the part of environmentalists to dam no more rivers.

      What might be interesting and useful would be to report “converted dam hydro”. We have a large number of dams already in place that could be used for power generation. That is new power that can be brought on line without damming streams. Some has been converted over the last few years and more is scheduled.

      • Ronald Brakels

        There are apparently about 75,000 dams in the US. Sounds like there isn’t much room left for any more. We were going to damn the Mary River in Queensland, Australia, but we decided not to and one of the reasons was on account of how it would drown the fish. Yep, that’s right. The air’s so sweet in Australia even the fish have gotta breath it.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Closer to 80,000. We’ve identified a bunch that can be used for electricity generation.

          I’m guessing we may see a few more dams in the west as we deal with dropping snow packs.

          • Ronald Brakels

            I sort of assumed that the US would almost be like Japan with just about every damn thing dammed, but according to the internet there are still places where marginal dams could be built, and when has the internet ever lied to us? But with wind and solar, and formally natura gas, pushing down electricity prices I’m guessing there isn’t a lot of interest in new hydro schemes in the US, but like you said, exisiting dams can be powered up.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m not talking about new dams specifically for hydro but for water storage.

            California has depended on the gradual melt of the Sierra snow pack to provide water into the dry season. A lot of dams have already been built to store water for later in the year when melting snow is not producing much.

            With the snow pack on the wane I expect there will be calls for building more water storage reservoirs in the foothills.

            We already use storage reservoirs for electricity gen.

          • Ronald Brakels

            I follow ya. I was wondering how much water was left in California and I was shocked to see that water still flows from rivers out into the sea. That’s just weird. Australia’s largest river started flowing into the ocean a few years ago and it was such a strange event I had to go down and have a look. It wasn’t very impressive. But I was impressed when I read how much water flows from the mighty Sacremento River into the sea. 27 cubic kilometers a year. Damn you have a rich country. I thought you could ship some of that water to Northern California but I worked out that the energy costs would be much more than desalination.

          • Another River Energy Source – beyond Dams, – is called Run of River Hydroelectricity. (Lots of links found on Google)

            “The Fitzsimmons Creek project is a 7.5-megawatt power plant right in the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort and it produces enough power to cover the annual energy consumption of the site. Not too bad when you consider its 38 lifts, 17 restaurants, numerous snow-making machines and other buildings and services. ”

            Also – “Run-of-river encompasses hydroelectric projects that require no dam, reservoir or flooding to generate electricity – the natural flow and elevation of a river are used to create power. A portion of the water from a fast-moving river is diverted into a penstock or pipe that channels it to a turbine then back to the river leaving enough of the existing flow to support environmental values.”

            Any Place with Rivers and Mountains can take advantage of Run-of-River Power (R-O-R) Projects much more easily – AND – since the power is much more continuous than wind or Solar, the plant size does not need to be as large for total power delivery, compared with Solar, which is at most locations maximum of 14 hours a day, or up to 10-12 hours in reality, Tops.

            My current Hydro Power Bill Says my daily average use is about 12 kWh, and my highest daily average in 24 months was about double that at 24 kWh. So – with just a bit of Buffering – for any surge loads, a 1 kW Water Generator on R-O-R could supply my biggest consumption needs, and for the current period – I could sell about half of that power produced back to the Grid!

            Also – with changing my Computer Monitors to LED, My Lights (Gradually) to LED, I have generally consumed less, and less for the same time frames, over the last 24 months. Being a Renter – I can’t add Solar to my Roof, since it’s not mine, but I am working the numbers down a bit at a time as I go forward.

            Dec. 2013 was at 10 kWh/Day average, while Dec. 2011 was at about 18 kWh/Day! The Summer Peaks in 2012 were about 23 kWh/Day, while in 2013, they were about 19 kWh/Day. If I could add just 2″ Foam Insulation on the Walls, I could likely drop that even more, since less A/C could be used! (Lucky – North Facing Apartment – so less summer Cooking on the side walls!)

            The Same Principles for building Energy Efficient Homes today, have been the same as those in the past, but with better materials available, it will become easier today than a decade ago. It is just needing to be paid attention to, since Homes are ‘ON’ 24 hours a day!

  • mds

    This is not well-behaved exponential growth, but it is exponential growth non-the-less! Hard for even Solar PV proponents to believe but it continues unabated, as are the dropping production cost trends for Solar PV. Say good-bye to fossil fuels.
    Nice Graphs! Thank you!

    • Banned by Bob

      Imagine if India got their act together. That would make for significant change.

  • JamesWimberley

    The new distribution is considerably more resilient than the old.
    – it includes many more significant (over 1GW) countries, in more regions; next year there will be more;
    – the new leading countries are much less likely to reverse policy than formerly idealistic Germany and Italy (China because the policy driver is politically dangerous smog, Japan because the driver is Fukushima, USA because incentives are so decentralised that no one policy actor is critical);
    – the cost of solar is now so low that (reduced) incentives play an ever smaller role in investment decisions, and all markets have become less vulnerable to policy shocks.

    The supply chain has also been toughened by the setback. The surviving firms are bigger, more integrated vertically, and probably more prudent.

    BTW: “Some markets in Europe have an almost untapped PV potential, Hungary, Poland and Turkey.” Turkey has a strong and credible solar policy and we can expect rapid growth, as in Mexico, Chile and Brazil.

    • mds

      This is the important one:
      “the cost of solar is now so low that (reduced) incentives play an ever smaller role in investment decisions”

      We’ve been transitioning to purely cost driven market growth. Solar is now the lowest cost alternative in many areas …and is still falling in price. Low cost storage is the next high impact to this growth and that is coming to the market right now.

      “The supply chain has also been toughened by the setback. The surviving firms are bigger, more integrated vertically, and probably more prudent.”
      …and surviving firms now have much more cost effective products! Solar PV in general, as an industry average, has dropped phenomenally in cost …and it is mostly staying down. (There is only a slight increase in prices for modules so far. Costs of production continue to drop, so margins are already good again. Some PV companies have already returned to high profits.)

  • mds

    The vertical scale on your last graph has to be off by about a factor of 4. This is quarterly amounts and 2012 has over 30 GW for each qtr. Annual total for 2012 is just under 30 GW in graph of the EPIA global annual install data at the top.
    kind regards, mike

    • Bob_Wallace

      Isn’t the graph what was/will be installed that quarter?

      • mds

        That’s what I thought & that would make it scaled incorrectly.

    • dgaetano

      I think the graph is something like “given how much was installed this quarter, this is what we’ll install all year”.

      I may be wrong about that.

      • mds

        No, you’re right. I should have gone to the source article and looked at it. Needs that context given here. I’d say rescaling altogether would be better. It’s kind of confusing to do it that way.

        • dgaetano

          Oh I agree, it is confusing.

          The really fascinating graph is the one above it: Net Power Generation Capacities Added…

          I would totally love to see that data for the US and California… (hint hint @ CleanTechnica)

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s a slightly different chart for the US. It’s production change rather than capacity change. From 2012 to 2013.

            Looking at production change gets around the capacity factor difference among different technologies.

            Note: The 2013 data is the EIA preliminary release. It may be slightly different when the final version is released in late fall 2014.

            (I can do the capacity graph if it’s desired.)

          • dgaetano

            Thank you Mr. Wallace, I appreciate that.

            Any chance I can get that graph in absolute production changes instead of percentages? Or if you can point me to the source of that data, that would work too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You can find annual capacity and production numbers from the EIA Electric Power Annual.


            Preliminary numbers for the previous year are published in the Monthly Energy Review.


            (I’ve got all these numbers in a spreadsheet so it’s fairly easy to crank out a graph. And it’s Bob.)

          • Otis11

            Those two graphs really put things in perspective – in 2013 Natural Gas use for electricity fell off of a cliff causing unused coal capacity to be brought back online (and a little petroleum). Wind is a great resource and growing quickly; while solar is temporarily insignificant, it’s exploding (and should become significant quickly!)

            Thanks for the visuals!

          • When Each Solar Installation can store on site – 1 days worth of Rated Power Production – it will be even more Resilient, Dealing better with Temporary Clods Passing over a Solar Farm or a House Rooftop, And even a 1 hour Rated Power Storage Capacity could help a lot for these situations. Also – a 1 Days worth of Storage – could mean better deliver to meet demand cycles being different than production cycles!

            And – if Each Home could store 1 Days worth of Consumption on site at the home – Blackouts (for many instances) would not even be relevant anymore!! (Just 10 kWh Storage would do me fine on average now, and not much more for summer! The Battery in a Tesla Model S, if the small one at 60 kWh, and it was charged and ready, could power my home for 6 Days at least at this rate!)

            With LED Street Lights becoming installed, having a Days worth of On site Stored Power for each of them, could be incorporated right in the Lamp Post Configuration! Meaning – the grid goes down but the lights stay on! Local UPS (Unintelligible Power Storage) systems will be the next step of Stored Energy.

          • dgaetano

            Thanks for that graph also.

            I was kind of afraid it would look like that (solar vs coal), although I’m happy to see wind make an impression.

            Even at the 70% year on year growth implied by the first graph, it’s going to be a few years (5+) before solar starts to dominate the second one.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We had a trade off between coal and NG due to rising gas prices. I’d expect that to bounce back and forth a bit for a while.

            But what we should see going forward is wind and solar taking larger and larger bites out of fossil fuels. And that will be helped along with dropping demand due to increased efficiency.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let me throw one more into the mix. Here’s where we’ve obtained our electricity since 2009.

            Some might look at that and be discouraged. I look at the slight drop in the black line and the slight rise in the green line and see that the great ship has turned.

            Now it’s time to pour on the coa…, no, time to jettison the coal and fire up the turbines and panels.

          • More and Better LED Lighting Products are already helping me with Efficiency Gains. LED Monitors vs. CRT’s, LED Lighting vs CF, it’s all good! My own Daily kWh use average is down over a 2 year window base on my Power bill! (From daily average of 18 kWh to now about 10 kWh, fro Dec. 2011 to Dec. 2013!)

          • Hi Bob, Sorry for the challenge – but Blues for Coal, and for Hydro, and for Solar – are too close to know what I am looking what precisely. Same for Purples for Nuclear & Wind. Could you add a Title on those Columns? or a Cross Hatch With the color to sort it out?

          • Bob_Wallace

            We just had a color blindness test and you failed. ;o)

            Coal on top. Black

            Non-hydro renewables start lowest on left and rise. Green

            Hydro second from bottom. Blue.

            Nuclear third from the bottom. Red (a brownish red)

            I don’t have cross hatch options on the simple graphing package I’m using. I’ll try using more divergent colors in the future. (I sort of liked the color associations.)

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