Growth of photovoltaics
Worldwide Growth of Photovoltaics
Cumulative Capacity in Megawatts [MWp] Grouped by Region
Installed PV in watts per capita by country
Exponential growth-curve on a semi-log scale
The growth of photovoltaics has been fitting an exponential curve for more than two decades. When photovoltaics was recognized as a promising source for renewable energy, programs, such as feed-in tariffs (FIT), were implemented by a number of governments in order to provide economic incentives for investments in this technology. Growth was mainly driven by European front-runner countries for several years, especially during their boom period from 2008 to 2012. As a consequence, production increased and prices declined significantly, even more so when China started to ramp up its production of solar cells and panels. Since then, photovoltaics is gaining momentum on a worldwide scale, mostly in Asia but also in North America and other regions, where solar PV is now increasingly competing with conventional energy sources.
Projections for photovoltaic growth are difficult and burdened with many uncertainties. Official agencies, such as the International Energy Agency consistently increased their estimates over the years, but still fell short of actual deployment.
Historically, the United States had been the leader of installed photovoltaics for many years. Its total capacity amounted to 88 megawatts in 1996, more than any other country in the world at the time. Then, Japan stayed ahead as the world's leader of produced PV electricity until 2005, when Germany took the lead and reached an installed capacity of 37,000 megawatts by 2014. China is expected to continue its rapid growth and to triple its PV capacity to 70,000 megawatts by 2017, becoming the world's largest producer of photovoltaic power.
By the end of 2013, worldwide installed photovoltaic capacity reached 139 gigawatts, close to 1 percent of the total electricity generation on the planet. For 2014, another estimated 35 to 52 GW will be installed, and by 2018 the worldwide photovoltaic capacity is projected to have doubled (low scenario of 320 GW) or even tripled (high scenario of 430 GW) within five years.
- 1 Current status
- 2 Forecast
- 3 History
- 4 All time
- 5 Yearly PV installations by country
- 6 All time PV installations by country
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 References
- Europe: 81,488 MW (58.7%)
- APAC: 21,992 MW (15.8%)
- China: 18,600 MW (13.4%)
- Americas: 13,727 MW (9.9%)
- MEA: 953 MW (0.7%)
- RoW: 2,098 MW (1.5%)
In 2013, another 38,400 MW of PV installations have been deployed. This is a new all time record in the history of worldwide PV growth and about 8,400 MW more than was deployed in the year before. The cumulated photovoltaic capacity increased by 38 percent to a running total of 139 GW. This is sufficient to generate at least 160 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity every year and about 0.85 percent of the electricity demand on the planet.
Europe added 11 gigawatt of new PV installation in 2013. It is still the most developed region with a cumulated total of 81.5 GW, about 59 percent of the worldwide installed capacity. Solar PV now covers 3 percent of the electricity demand and 6 percent of the peak electricity demand. However, European PV deployment has slowed down by half compared to the record year of 2011, and will most likely continue to decrease. This is mainly due to the strong decline of new installations in Germany and Italy.
In 2013, photovoltaics grew fastest in China (+11.8 GW), followed by Japan (+6.9 GW) and the United States (+4.75 GW), while Germany remains the world's largest overall producer of photovoltaic power with a total capacity of 35.5 GW, contributing almost 6% to its national electricity demands. By now, Italy meets 7.8% of its electricity demands with photovoltaic power, thus making it the leader in that respect.
For the top ten leading countries in terms of deployed and overall PV-capacity see chart below. Other mentionable PV deployments in 2013, include France (613 MW), Canada (444 MW), Korea (442 MW), Thailand (317 MW), The Netherlands (305 MW), Switzerland (300 MW), Ukraine (290 MW), Austria (250 MW), Denmark (216 MW), Belgium (215 MW) and Spain (115 MW).
Global short term outlook: The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) expects the fastest PV growth to continue in China, South-East Asia, Latin America, the Middle-East, North Africa, and India. For 2014, global photovoltaic capacity is estimated to increase by 35 to 52 gigawatts (GW). By 2018, worldwide capacity is projected to reach between 320 GW (low scenario) and 430 GW (high scenario). This corresponds to a doubling or tripling of installed capacity compared to the year 2013.
Long term Outlook for Europe: The EIPA also produced two different European scenarios for the year 2030. For the low scenario a yearly growth of 4 percent results in 350 GW of PV installations that meet 10 percent of the overall electricity demand. In the high scenario the projection is based on a yearly growth rate of 8 percent. This results in more than 500 GW of installed capacity or 15 percent of Europe's energy demand in 2030.
The EPIA expects China to continue to install 10 GW per year. In February 2014, China's National Development and Reform Commission upgraded its 2014 target from 10 GW to 14 GW and announced in May 2014, that the country projects a more than tripling of PV capacity to 70 GW by 2017. By then, China would have surpassed Germany's capacity and become the world's largest overall producer of photovoltaic power.
Michael Liebreich, from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, anticipates a tipping point for solar energy. The costs of power from wind and solar are already below those of conventional electricity generation in some parts of the world, as they have fallen sharply and will continue to do so. He also asserts, that the electrical grid has been greatly expanded worldwide, and is ready to receive and distribute electricity from renewable sources. In addition, worldwide electricity prices came under strong pressure from renewable energy sources, that are, in part, enthusiastically embraced by consumers.
Deutsche Bank sees a "second gold rush" for the photovoltaic industry to come. Grid parity has already been reached in at least 19 markets by January 2014. Photovoltaics will prevail beyond feed-in tariffs, becoming more competitive as deployment increases and prices continue to fall.
In June 2014 Barclays downgraded bonds of U.S. utility companies. Barclays expects more competition by a growing self-consumption due to a combination of decentralized PV-systems and residential electricity storage. This could fundamentally change the utility's business model and transform the system over the next ten years, as prices for these systems are predicted to fall.
In September 2014, SEIA, the Solar Energy Industries Association, forecasted that 6.5 gigawatt of solar PV will be installed in the United States by the end of 2014, up 36 percent over 2013.
Since the 1950s, when the first solar cells were commercially manufactured, there has been a succession of countries leading the world as the largest producer of electricity from solar photovoltaics. First it was the United States, then Japan, currently Germany, and soon it will be China.
- United States
The United States, inventor of modern photovoltaics was the leader of installed PV capacity for many years. The American engineer Russell Ohl of Bell Labs patented the first modern solar cell in 1946, based on preceding work by Swedish and German engineers. It was also there at Bell Labs where the first practical silicon PV cell was developed in 1954. Hoffman Electronics improved the efficiency of solar cells, manufactured solar radios and equipped Vanguard I, the first solar powered satellite, that was launched into orbit in 1958.
In 1977 US-President Jimmy Carter installed solar thermal collectors on the White House promoting solar power and the Solar Energy Research Institute was established at Golden, Colorado. In the 1980s and early 1990s, most photovoltaic modules were used in stand-alone power systems or powered consumer products such as watches, calculators and toys, but from around 1995, industry efforts have focused increasingly on developing building-integrated photovoltaics and power plants for grid connected applications. By 1996, the total US capacity amounted to 88 megawatts, more than any other country in the world at the time. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, the United States had 12.1 cumulative gigawatts of PV in operation at the end of 2013.
Then, Japan stayed ahead as the world's largest producer of PV electricity. After the city of Kobe was hit by the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995, solar systems were considered as temporary power supplies in exceptional circumstances. Kobe experienced severe power outages in the aftermath of the earthquake. The disruption of the electric grid paralyzed the entire infrastructure, including gas stations that depended on electricity to pump gasoline. Moreover, in December of that same year, an accident occurred at the multi-billion dollar experimental Monju Nuclear Power Plant. A sodium leak caused a major fire and forced a shutdown. There was massive public outrage when it was revealed that the semigovernmental agency in charge of Monju had tried to cover up the extent of the accident and resulting damage. Japan remained world leader in photovoltaics until 2004, when its capacity amounted to 1,132 megawatts.
In 2005, Germany took the lead from Japan. With the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act in 2000, feed-in tariffs were adopted as a policy mechanism. This policy established that renewables have priority on the grid, and that a fixed price must be paid for the produced electricity over a long period of time, providing a guaranteed return on investment irrespective of actual market prices. As a consequence, a high level of investment security lead to a soaring number of new photovoltaic installations that peaked in 2011, while investment costs in renewable technologies were brought down considerably. Germany reached an installed PV capacity of 36,708 megawatts by mid-2014.
China's rapid PV growth is expected to continue and to surpass Germany's capacity in the next few years, becoming the world's largest producer of photovoltaic power.
Prices and costs
Photovoltaic prices have fallen drastically over the decades. The price per watt for crystalline silicon solar cells was about $77 in 1977. As of June 2014, average spot prices for c-Si cells are as low as $0.36 per watt, or 200 times less than thirty-seven years ago. Prices for Thin film solar cells and c-Si solar panels are around $.60 per watt. This price trend is seen as evidence supporting Swanson's law, an observation similar to the famous Moore's Law that states that prices for solar cells and panels fall by 20 percent for every doubling of industry capacity.
- 2013: 38,400 MW (27.6%)
- 2012: 30,000 MW (21.6%)
- 2011: 30,200 MW (21.7%)
- 2010: 17,100 MW (12.3%)
- 2009: 7,400 MW (5.3%)
- 2008: 6,700 MW (4.8%)
- 2007: 2,500 MW (1.8%)
- 2006: 1,500 MW (1.1%)
- before: 5,100 MW (3.7%)
Growth of worldwide PV capacity since 1992. Cumulative figures, worldwide nominal capacity, in megawatts by the end of the year.
Yearly PV installations by country
|Country or Region
Report Nat. Int.
|Country or Region
Report Nat. Int.
All time PV installations by country
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