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Published on February 10th, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


European Solar & Wind Capacity Skyrockets In 2015

February 10th, 2016 by  

New wind and solar capacity in Europe skyrocketed in 2015, growing by 6.3% and 15%, according to new figures.

The new European Photovoltaic Industry Association, SolarPower Europe, and the European Wind Energy Association both published new figures this week reporting in on their respective fields’ capacity expansion during 2015 — and it’s good news all around.

SolarPower Europe reported that the European solar market grew by 15% in 2015, connecting 8 GW of new solar power to the grid, compared to 6.95 GW in 2014.

“It is good to see the European solar power sector again on the growth path in 2015,” says James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe (PDF).

“Solar needs clear signals from policy makers in Europe to be able to contribute to achieving the climate goals agreed in Paris. With solar being competitive for residential and commercial applications in most European countries today, investors need a secure political framework for generation, self-consumption and storage of solar energy.”

Similar good news can be found in the wind industry, with the European wind industry connecting a total of 12.8 GW of new wind capacity to the grid in 2015, an increase of 6.3% over 2014 levels. Furthermore, across the 28 European Union member states, wind accounted for 44% of all new power installations, made up of 9.766 GW in onshore and 3.034 MW offshore.

“These numbers show that wind is the driving force behind the EU’s energy transition,” said Giles Dickson, Chief Executive Officer of the European Wind Energy Association. “Wind energy is a mature industry. It makes economic sense and is contributing significantly to Europe’s energy security and competitiveness goals.”

Almost half the new wind installations in 2015 are to be found in Germany, followed by Poland with 1.3 GW of new capacity, and France with 1 GW.

“We’ve seen strong expansion in Germany in 2015 and a strong year for offshore wind. But growth is uneven geographically,” added Dickson. “We’re not doing as well in countries where the policy and regulation is unclear and/or ineffective – investors and developers go elsewhere.

“Policy is key, especially when we look at the longer term. As of now only 6 out of the 28 EU states have clear targets and policies in place for renewables post-2020. We see more ambition in emerging economies – which puts a question mark by the EU’s goal to be No. 1 in renewables.”

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  • Foersom

    Nice European progress in solar and wind installation for 2015. Hope to see even more installations for 2016.

  • Matt

    “New wind and solar capacity in Europe skyrocketed in 2015, growing by 6.3% and 15%, according to new figures.”

    Ok, maybe since this is about the EU, English is a second language. NO the wind and solar capacity did not grow by that much. The amount install grew that much year over year. So “New wind and solar INSTALLS …”

    Note that the real numbers are still good:
    total wind capacity grew 9.9% 12.8GW to reach 142GW
    total solar capacity grew 9.2% 8GW to reach 95GW

    But words and numbers do count!

  • JamesWimberley

    “Grew steadily against policy headwinds”, more like. Both sectors are in the awkward stage of adolescence where they are big enough to frighten vested fossil interests, but just not yet cheap enough to beat them unaided on price, as in parts of the US. It won’t take long though, and growth will pick up strongly soon after.

    A straw in the wind: Iberdrola, a big and influential incumbent in Spain with fossil, hydro, and wind assets, has decided to partner up with a solar developer of commercial self-consumption installations. Since Iberdrola is one of the prime movers behind the current freeze, this means that solar for self-consumption with no grid feed-in at all is now a good investment and can’t realistically be stopped. No government can get away with jailing the CEOs of supermarket chains for building solar carports.

    • heinbloed

      Well said.

      Only another Fukueuropa can safe the utilities there.

      SocGen corrects the price forecasts every three month by now it seems. Yesterday’s forecasts are already today’s history:!/2016/02/10

    • Frank

      “not yet cheap enough to beat them unaided on price” while pollution is free to the polluter.

    • Freddy D

      Yes, nicely said.

      So then what would it take for renewable energy to go from adolescence producing single or low double digits of the power to maturity where it produces the vast majority or energy? Terawatt-scale is a huge leap indeed. A good start would be further cost declines such that it’s far cheaper than the fuel and labor to run an existing plant. And the price declines are headed in that direction.

      • Bristolboy

        Renewable energy technologies are already able to compete against the alternatives when their construction costs are included. For example, the 1.9GW Trafford Power Station in Greater Manchester won a capacity subsidy of £19.40/kW (over £35 million/year), which is on top of any revenues from actually selling electricity. Even with this support, this project is unable to get financing and is looking like it may have to “hand back” the subsidy and also pay a fine. Hinkley Point C provides a perfect example of the same on the nuclear side.

        As you say, the real change will come when new renewable energy is able to compete with the opex of existing plant. This day is getting ever closer with wind and solar likely to reach this point by the end of the decade, in the UK at least. At this point there will be a massive switch to renewable energy – increased deployment will only decrease the per unit cost of renewables and conventional generation will start to have lower and lower load factors resulting in their fixed costs being split over an ever decreasing number of hours which will make their electricity increasingly uncompetitive.

        • eveee

          Yes. Right now probably only solar in Spain and Italy might be cheap enough to compete with Opex. In the US, Midwest wind already competes with Opex.

          • Harry Johnson

            Sicily and Crete have incredible solar resources and their local economies could use the jolt.

          • eveee

            Thanks. Good input. I didn’t even mention North Africa solar or wind.

          • Bristolboy

            Those are the major markets, but there are some more minor ones which are at the point of being able to compete. Greece is one, as is Ireland and the best locations in Scotland (and Wales and Cornwall) for wind. The areas covered would be much greater if there hadn’t been the wholesale electricity prices over the last year or so.

        • Coley

          Hinkley Point C provides a perfect example of the same on the nuclear side.

          Lost you there? Renewables generally have to find backers prepared to take a risk, Hinckley point has been given a blank cheque by the UK govt while other forms of RE are being squeezed out, look at today’s news ;re the Swansea tidal lagoon project.

          • Bristolboy

            My point was Hinkley Point is like Trafford CCGT – despite various guarantees and subsidies given to both projects, they are struggling to progress. This implies that investors see such projects as high risk, even with various support from the government.

            New renewable schemes require less subsidy and support than Hinkley and CCGT, yet can still find investment. This implies these projects are considered lower risk by the investment community, even without government guarantees etc.

    • eveee

      Generally true in the EU, particularly UK offshore wind among others, but don’t you think Spanish solar is competitive?

  • Freddy D

    With all due respect, 6% growth or even 15% growth wouldn’t be considered “skyrocketing” growth. 33% growth doubles every 3 years, 50% every 2. That might qualify. The world would need to install about 5 to 7 terawatts of renewable generation installed by 2050 to effectively slow climate change. With “skyrocketing” growth like this it’ll never happen in that time frame. Just sayin’

    • Martin

      Yes if you look at the numbers that way, no “skyrocketing”.
      But as compared to the rise in GDP, what maybe 2% or so in Europe overall, and compared to FF installs, do not know those number, perhaps even negative, it is very good news.

    • Ian

      You’re not compounding your numbers correctly.
      26% growth doubles every three years.
      41% growth doubles every two years.
      15% growth doubles every five years.

      I think that 15% growth should be considered ‘skyrocketing’ considering that that’s growth in new installations. But I’d rather see the growth numbers relative to the installed base to get a better idea of the real growth rate.

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