Another Record Year for Solar Power, But Clouds on the Horizon

Sam Shrank and Matthias Kimmel | Jul 26, 2011

The photovoltaic (PV) and electric solar thermal markets had another record year in 2010. With an estimated 16,700 megawatts (MW) of capacity installed, PV continued to dominate the solar landscape.1 The additions in 2010 were almost 2.5 times more growth than in 2009 and more than the total existing PV capacity as recently as 2008.2 With installed capacity at almost 40,000 megawatts by the end of 2010, PV cells produced enough electricity to power about 13 million households.3 Additionally, about 500 MW of solar thermal electric power plants came online in 2010, bringing the total operating capacity of such plants to roughly 1,100 MW.4 In Germany and Spain, solar energy provided by PV and thermal electric plants now meets, respectively, about 2 percent and 2.6 percent of electricity demand.5

As has been the case for some years, Europe was responsible for the lion’s share of world PV growth in 2010, installing over 13,000 MW.6 (See Figure 1.) For the first time, Europe installed more PV than wind capacity, with Germany and Italy leading the way.7 Germany continued to be the world’s biggest market, with 7,400 MW of new PV capacity connected to the grid in 2010.8 This accounts for roughly 40 percent of global PV additions and is equivalent to total global capacity additions in 2009.9 Germany, Europe’s largest economy, now has17,300 MW of PV installed.10 Italy was again the second largest PV market; the 2,300 MW in new installations there in 2010 was four times more than was added in 2009 and pushed Italy’s aggregate official capacity to almost 3,500MW.11 There is reason to think that installed capacity is much higher, however. Some 5,248 MW of capacity was listed under the country’s feed-in tariff registry as of May 2011, much of which could have been added during 2010.12

The Czech Republic continued its fast ascent into the group of major PV markets, adding 1,331 MW in a country with little previous capacity.13 France added 719 MW, surpassing 1 gigawatt (GW) in total installations.14 Spain, which dominated the PV landscape in 2008 and was long one of the most important solar markets, installed 371 MW in 2010, slightly recovering from the severe crash the market experienced in 2009.15 Outside Europe, the major markets included Japan and the United States. Japan was the world’s fifth largest installer in 2010, with 950 MW added.16 The United States installed 937 MW and now has 2,100 MW of total capacity.17

Solar Power Figure 1

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