Solar overtakes wind in global annual additions for first time: SPE

PV's lead over wind is expected to grow in 2017 and following years, according to figures from SolarPower Europe and GWEC

Solar power shot past wind as the fastest growing renewable-energy technology for the first time last year, according to a new report by SolarPower Europe (SPE).

SPE’s Global Market Outlook 2017 shows that 76.6GW of solar was installed around the world in 2016 —almost 42% more than the 54GW of wind erected last year (as reported in April by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)). The 2016 PV figure represents a massive 51% increase on the 50.6GW of solar installed globally in 2015.

The report also claims that solar is cheaper than wind, judging by recent tenders, pointing to the record-breaking $0.244/kWh 25-year power-purchase agreement awarded in Abu Dhabi last year.

A comparison of the SPE and GWEC figures shows that solar will continue to outpace wind in the coming years. SPE believes annual PV installations will increase to about 80.5GW in 2017, before growing by around 100GW annually between 2018 and 2021. By contrast, GWEC expects almost 60GW of new wind installations in 2017, growing to an annual market of 75GW by 2021.

Global wind power base grows to nearly 490GW: GWEC report

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China accounted for almost half of all solar installations in 2016, with 34.5GW — a 128% increase on 2016; the US was responsible for 14.8% — a 97% year-on-year increase; Japan was in third place, adding 8.6GW; and India took fourth spot with 4.5GW — up from 2GW the previous year.

By contrast, the European PV market shrank by 22%, primarily driven by the UK terminating its solar incentive programme. Nevertheless, solar and wind still accounted for more than 75% of all new power installations in the EU last year.

“While all these solar growth numbers sound very impressive, the fact is that solar still has a long way to go to fully tap its potential,” write SPE chief executive James Watson and executive advisor Michael Schmela in the report’s foreword. “The 306.5GW of grid-connected PV capacity installed [globally by the] end of 2016 generated around 2% of the world’s electricity demand.

“If policy makers get things right by addressing the needs for a smooth energy transition, such as through establishing the right governance, market design and renewable energy frameworks, solar demand could increase much faster, and touch nearly 1TW of total [cumulative] generation capacity in 2021.”

In the coming five years, SPE expects the world’s top 20 solar markets to be as follows (with figures representing total installed capacity, 2017-21): 

1) China (120GW)

2) US (69.9GW)

3) India (66.35GW)

4) Japan (29.6GW)

5) Germany (12.5GW)

6) Mexico (10GW)

7) France (8.1GW)

8) Australia (7.78GW)

9) South Korea (7.25GW)

10) Turkey (6.56GW)

11) Brazil (6.38GW)

12) Netherlands (5.98GW)

13) Pakistan (4.4GW)

14) UK (4.275GW)

15) Taiwan (3.7GW)

16) United Arab Emirates (3.55GW)

17) Italy (3.54GW)

18) Chile (3.25GW)

19) Ireland (3.22GW)

20) Thailand (3.1GW)

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