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Published on July 11th, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan


Global Solar Power Capacity About To Hit 200 GW

July 11th, 2015 by  

Originally published on Solar Love.

The global solar industry has been seeing exponential growth in recent years, and that’s expected to continue. After hitting about 178 GW of solar PV power capacity by the end of 2014, global solar PV capacity is expected to hit 200 GW shortly.

That’s according to German solar association BSW-Solar, anyhow. It projects that 22 GW of solar PV capacity was added worldwide in the first half of 2015, and expects 50 GW will be added in total this year. (Note that GTM Research projects 55 GW will be added, and other solar market research firms are in the general vicinity as well.)

Within the next 4 years, BSW-Solar expects the total global solar PV capacity will more than double, reaching at least 400 GW.

The markets most driving solar PV growth these days are China, Japan, the USA, and India. However, the good news is that solar PV is growing all across the world, as it has become more and more competitive very quickly. In a quickly growing number of places, solar power is the cheapest option for homeowners, businesses, governments, and societies.

Related: Solar Energy & Solar Power Facts

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the 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 and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. 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. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • The global solar industry has been growing continuously

  • Glenn

    One problem…I saw news that we will have mini-ice age in next 15 yrs due to Sun’s cycle that, we may not get enough solar.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It appears that there will be a period of decreased solar output but it will be minor and far outweighed by all the greenhouse gases we’ve pumped into the atmosphere.

      Solar cycles are common. It takes far, far more than a solar dip to significantly cool off the Earth.

      If we’re lucky solar input will cool things down a little and buy us a little time.

  • mikgigs

    the presentations are very good. that’s the way, when a person put some attention to the plots.

  • At a growth rate of 48% wind and solar should be at 6 TW worldwide by 2020


    • ttman

      Wind isn’t growing at 48%. 2013 installations were lower than any of the previous four years. 2014 installations were 16.2% of year end 2013 cumulative capacity.

  • Foersom

    Solar is progressing, but also wind power is advancing. By September there will be at 400 GW wind turbines capacity. This based on that end 2014 wind was 370 GW and ~50 GW is expected to be installed in 2015.

  • DecksUpMySleeve

    1/775,000th Global Annual power use, we’re soo close..

    • Dan Hue

      The pace of progress is depressing, but on the other hand, the technical and economical obstacles are being eliminated to the point where one doesn’t even have to justify renewables on environmental ground anymore. I don’t know that we are there yet, or just getting close, but when there is a will there is a way, and all that will soon be needed is the will. Perhaps a few record years for temperature, or an another Arctic plunge will do the trick.

      • DecksUpMySleeve

        Oh an Artic plunge will do the trick alright, we have a 1 two punch happening this very moment that in all likelihood may depopulate our species.
        Fukushima still dumps 300 tons of radiated water per day from it’s 35ft across rods boiling away, mass deaths in the ocean life.

        • nakedChimp

          The soup is never eaten as hot as it’s made.
          Cheer up and think positive.
          If nature(*) screws this up on this planet don’t worry.. there is enough space out there with billions of milky-ways with each containing billions of liveable rocky planets around a sol-like-star that somewhere somehow nature will do things ‘right’ and things will evolve past this level and onto something better?

          *) humans are part of nature, can’t deny that.

  • Ross

    One number that still has to improve by a large multiple is the cumulative installed GWs. If that can increase from 200GW to 400GW in the next 4 years we’ll be starting to get to a rate of GW installed/year that will make a serious dent on the problem.

  • jburt56

    A gigawatt per day to keep warming at bay.

  • mike_dyke

    Judging by the other news about very low cost solar, I think that the graphs in the videos need to be updated – They show 0.07 in 2020.

    • Matt

      Dang to darn wind/PV farms are signing PPA at much lower prices than anyone 2 years ago thought could happen before 2020. It is like they are trying to make you look bad Zac. 😉

      • mike_dyke

        Too true Matt. It’s beginning to look as if my exporting of spare PV electricity for 0.03 is actually a good deal – I just had to wait a few years!

      • Ha, yeah, only the biggest “wackos” are seeing their predictions come true. 10 years from now, where will we be?

        • Bob_Wallace

          My wacko prediction:

          Ten years from now we will have removed at least 25% of all fossil fuels from our grids and will be on pace to remove close to the other 75% within 15 years. 20 years at the most.

          Ten years from now we will have affordable (200 mile) EVs and ICEV sales will be in freefall.

          What I can’t predict, and what I can’t imagine, is how we start pulling carbon back out of the atmosphere and re-sequestering it. That is now our big nut to crack.

          • Foersom

            > What I can’t predict, and what I can’t imagine, is how we start pulling carbon back out of the atmosphere and re-sequestering it. That is now our big nut to crack.

            Forest in Sahara? With desalination of water by renewable energy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Increasing plant growth and perhaps extracting most of the carbon then storing it away is a possibility, but doing that at a high enough rate to make an impact? I don’t know.

            Turn abandoned open pit mines into mountains of charcoal covered with a soil cap. Refill all our underground mines. Do all the harvesting and transportation with renewable energy. Do it on a grand scale all around the world. Is it feasible?

          • Shane 2

            Google: seven-ocean-fertilization-strategies geo-engineering BlogSpot
            This uses solar energy to take CO2 from the atmosphere, however this might greatly change ocean ecology so would not be worth the damage to eco-systems.
            Russia might start complaining if we make Arctic colder again.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That is not a proven approach. It’s going to take more research to see how effective it might be and what the side effects might be.

          • Dan Hue

            The warming in high latitude will create opportunities that lead to “vested interests”, and they will scream bloody murder when we do that. Putin’s successor will call it an act of war 😉

          • Nick Thiwerspoon

            I suspect it might be much quicker than that. Right now about 4.5% of total global electricity is produced by wind and solar together. Solar output is doubling every 2 years, wind every 3. Let’s be conservative, and say together they double every 3 years. That means 9% of total elec demand in 3 years, 18% in 6, 36% in 9, and 72% in 12, assuming no growth in total demand. World elec demand has been growing by +-3% per annum over the last few years., which will reduce the percentages somewhat. My detailed calcs suggest total wind plus solar could reach 65% of world elec supply by 2027. This is driven not just by the utterly obvious facts of global warming and the political pressure to do something, but by continuing cost declines in solar, wind and batteries.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There are limits on rapid exponential growth. At some point there isn’t enough capital or plants can’t expand fast enough or trained labor isn’t available or materials can’t be mined fast enough or….

            When levels are low doubling can happen in a short time. Going from 1 to 2 is a doubling that requires adding on one more 1. Going from 36 to 72 requires adding 36 more 1s.

          • Nick Thiwerspoon


            And yet, new technology can replace old with astonishing speed. In the film North by Northwest (1959) all the passenger planes on the tarmac were petrol-engined. I very much doubt that 10 years later there would be any petrol-fuelled planes in such a view. Or consider how rapidly mobile phones replaced landlines. Or DVDs tape videos. Once it becomes cost-effective, a new technology quickly ousts the old. And yes, the quantities involved are huge. But even there, huge needs will generate huge responses: see in this magazine the report of the doubling of Tesla’s gigafactory.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here are some examples of technological switches. Doubling often occurs in the early stages and then things tend to settle into a somewhat steady state until right before market saturation and then one observes deceleration.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oops, same ones twice….

          • Nick Thiwerspoon

            Fascinating charts–the classic s-curve. But surely with solar and wind we are just at the point where the curve starts to accelerate (about 5%). And most cases, with other technologies (especially recent ones), from there to 90% takes 15 to 20 years. Say 2035 for 90% emission cuts?

          • Bob_Wallace

            20 years to 90% emission cuts? Possible, but I doubt it will go that fast. We don’t quite have a great storage solution in place, that might take a few more years. And we’ve got quite a bit of legacy paid off fossil fuel plants that produce cheap electricity (if you look only at selling price and not external costs).

            A total buildout of renewables is going to require a lot of new transmission and that takes time to build. As we get past 50% wind/solar penetration we’re going to need to start installing large amounts of storage and it might take a while to build a storage industry, get it up to speed.

            If you remember back to Jacobson and Delucchi (2009) they laid out a path to get to 100% renewables in 20 years but stated it would take a WWII type effort. And that would be worldwide, not just in the US.

            Obviously, the sooner the better. But getting to 10% FF or less is going to require some very heavy lifting. And it will be met with resistance from the fossil fuel industry (which we’ve been seeing for some time).

          • Frank

            My dream is a vicious cycle where renewables lower the revenues of existing FF power plants to the point where they go out of business, prompting more renewable generation which lowers the revenue of still existing power plants…etc. The bigger the difference in price, for whatever reason, the faster this can happen. When there is money to be made, finance does it’s thing.

          • Doug Cutler

            What about political will as a countervailing wild card? At some point the renewable energy future becomes obvious to the masses – with even those who might question climate change conceding on economy and health. Then support for both real and de facto fossil fuel subsidy crumbles and the momentum for renewables expands or even explodes. The damn often leaks before it breaks.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I fully expect public support to be an accelerator and “political will” will follow. We see that starting to happen already as conservative parts of the country which happen to have really good wind resources are getting behind wind and their governors are lobbying for support for wind. And with the Green Tea Party pushing for more solar.

          • ttman

            Wind is not currently growing at a 24% growth rate (doubling in 3 years). 2013 installations were lower than any of the
            previous four years. 2014 installations, while the highest ever, were 16.2% of year end 2013 cumulative capacity. 16.2% still would double every 4.4 years, but the annual installations are levelling off, making the annual growth rate decline.

          • Sim

            It is possible this happens quicker. Not only is extra production coming online. Systems are being streamlined and higher capacity panels are being produced. As long as there is no great financial crisis and companies can stay competitive the end result will be interesting. What Bob Wallace says below is true. Still production has come online of Silicon etc. so hopefully it all continues.

          • With the ever decreasing cost of renewables, we will be ‘manufacturing’ liquid fuels in very large quantities for aviation, shipping, etc. I suspect that the lowest cost carbon will be from atmospheric CO2.

    • Shiggity

      A common theme in energy is that fossil fuels and nuclear are always vastly overstated, while renewable energy is understated every single time.

      They are too afraid to show the real curves to investors, which is kind of frightening. They are too afraid to even suggest the notion that it *could* be possible (which it very well is).

      • Andrew Singleton

        it = economic feasibility?

        • Mike Shurtleff

          it = actual growth curves continuing out?

          …but, yes, in the sense of driven by economic feasibility and then disruptive displacement when large enough economic advantage is reached. (e.g. Solar PV + Storage in Australia at half price of available end-of-grid electricity. Same for Hawaii. Same for Chile. Then for CA… and so on.)

    • True.

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