Growth of Global Solar and Wind Energy Continues to Outpace Other Technologies
Solar and wind continue to dominate investment in new renewable capacity. Global use of solar and wind energy grew significantly in 2012. Solar power consumption increased by 58 percent, to 93 terrawatt-hours (TWh), while wind power increased by 18.1 percent, to 521.3 TWh.
Global investment in solar energy in 2012 was $140.4 billion, an 11 percent decline from 2011, and wind investment was down 10.1 percent, to $80.3 billion. Due to lower costs for both technologies, however, total installed capacities still grew sharply.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity grew by 41 percent in 2012, reaching 100 gigawatts (GW). Installed PV capacity has grown by 900 percent since 2007. The countries with the most installed PV capacity today are Germany (32.4 GW), Italy (16.4 GW), the United States (7.2 GW), and China (7.0 GW). Concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) capacity reached 2.55 GW, with 970 megawatts (MW) alone added in 2012.
Europe remains dominant in solar, accounting for 76 percent of global solar power use in 2012. Germany alone accounted for 30 percent of the world's solar power consumption, and Italy added the third most capacity of any country in 2012 (3.4 GW). Spain added the most CSP capacity (950 MW) in 2012 as well. However, Italy reached the subsidy cap for its feed-in tariff (FIT) program in June 2013, while Spain recently made a retroactive change in its FIT policies, meaning that growth in solar energy will likely slow in these countries in the near future.
The Asia-Pacific region now accounts for 17 percent of global solar use, leaving it behind only Europe. Solar consumption grew by 69.5 percent in the region in 2012, and Japan (6.7 percent of the world total) and China (4.9 percent) are now among the top five global solar energy consumers.
Due to slowing global economic growth, easing demand, and oversupply, there were significant net losses in the Chinese PV industry, which supplies more than half of the world market. The net losses have been exacerbated by growing trade wars between China and both the European Union (EU) and the United States after they accused Chinese companies of dumping solar panels on their markets. Overall, the United States added 3.3 GW of solar to reach a total installed capacity of 8.04 GW in 2012.
Total installed wind capacity edged up in 2012 by 45 GW to a total of 284 GW. In keeping with recent years, the majority of new installed capacity was concentrated in China and the United States, which reached total installed capacities of 75.3 GW and 60 GW, respectively.
Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Worldwatch Institute.
Alternative energy image via Shutterstock.