China leading the way in solar energy expansion as renewables surge
The development of renewable energy is setting new records, with solar power now becoming cheaper than energy from new coal or nuclear plants. China and other players in Asia are making serious inroads into the market.
The addition of new renewable power sources set new records last year, according to the latest Renewables Global Status Report.
The annual report, published by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) on Wednesday, said that 161 gigawatts (GW) had been installed worldwide in 2016, bringing global capacity to nearly 2,017 GW – an increase of almost 9 percent over 2015.
Solar power represented around 47 percent of that capacity, with wind at 34 percent and hydropower at 15.5 percent.
“The world is adding more renewable power capacity each year than it adds in new capacity from all fossil fuels combined,” said Arthouros Zervos, chair of REN21, in a press release.
Solar generation, in particular, is surging worldwide at a much faster pace than expected, according to the latest Global Market Outlook.
The report, published annually by industry association SolarPower Europe, provides a comprehensive overview of projects in the photovoltaic sector. It predicts the solar boom will continue, with a steadily climbing number of new solar systems coming online each year.
This year, they expect plants capable of generating a total 81 GW of solar power to be added to global production. That’s compared to 77 GW added in 2016 and 50 GW in 2015. A decade earlier, it was just 1 GW.
If the pace of growth doesn’t slack off, the report notes, solar power generation could double by the end of 2019 and triple by 2021.
China leading the way?
China is one of the driving forces behind the solar power boom. Last year, around 45 percent of the world’s new solar installations were built there. The United States, Japan and India were also top adopters of the technology, albeit significantly behind China.
Germany, once considered a solar energy pioneer, is lagging even further behind. In 2016, for example, it installed just under 2 percent of the world’s new solar capacity. It’s now ranked sixth in the world – after surrendering the top spot to China in 2015.
Other European countries have also dropped off in recent years. In 2012, more than half of all solar systems were installed in Europe, but that’s no longer the case.