Record Growth in Photovoltaic Capacity and Momentum Builds for Concentrating Solar Power

James Russell | Jun 03, 2010

An estimated 7,300 megawatts (MW) of new solar photovoltaic (PV) power capacity was installed in 2009—20 percent more than was added in 2008.1 With this record addition, global installed PV capacity surpassed 21,000 megawatts, producing enough power to satisfy the annual electricity use of about 5.5 million households.2 In addition, 127 MW of solar thermal electric power plants came online in 2009, bringing the total operating capacity of such plants to 613 MW.34 Solar energy harnessed by PV and thermal electric plants now meets about 1 percent of electricity demand in Germany and more than 2 percent of demand in Spain.

Europe continues to be the center of global PV demand, installing 5,280 MW in 2009, equal to 72 percent of the global total.5 (See Figure 1.) Germany alone was responsible for more than half of global PV installation, with a total of 3,800 MW installed.6 Much of this record capacity increase was completed only in December, as solar developers rushed to complete projects before Germany’s feed-in tariff was reduced by 10 percent in January 2010.7 Installations by the previous record holder, Spain, plummeted from 2,700 MW in 2008 to about 70 MW in 2009.8 This decline came as no surprise, however, as Spanish policymakers sharply reduced the solar feed-in-tariff and introduced a new project approval process to control costs and project quality.9

Italy was the second largest market for PV, with 580 MW installed.10 Japan took third place with 480 MW installed, spurred on by a new obligation for utilities to purchase surplus PV electricity.11 The United States was the fourth largest market, with about 470 MW installed, and the Czech Republic was fifth, with 410 MW installed.12

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