Solar photovoltaic (PV) power had another great year in 2012, increasing by about 30 GW (about the same as in 2011).  As noted above, the cumulative global solar PV power capacity is now just above 100 GW — 101 GW at the end of 2012, according to preliminary figures from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). The association notes that the 30 GW total (and, thus, the 101 GW total) may go up 1 or 2 GW once the numbers are finalized (which should happen in May with the publishing of “Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2013–2017”).

“This global capacity to harness the power of the sun produces as much electricity energy in a year as 16 coal power plants or nuclear reactors of 1 GW each,” EPIA wrote in a news release this week.

“No one would have predicted even 10 years ago that we would see more than 100 GW of solar photovoltaic  capacity in the world by 2012,” said EPIA President Winfried Hoffmann. “The photovoltaic industry clearly faces challenges but the results of 2012 show there is a strong global market for our technology. Even in tough economic times and despite growing regulatory uncertainty, we have nearly managed to repeat the record year of 2011.”

Shift In Location Of Solar Power Installations

While the installation total in 2012 was about the same as in 2011, where that solar power was installed did change. In 2011, about 23 GW of solar power were installed in Europe, while about 8 GW were installed outside of Europe. In 2012, however, only about 17 GW were installed in Europe (mostly due to broader economic difficulties and policy shifts), while 13 GW or so were installed outside of Europe. I think that globalizing trend is likely to continue in 2013.

According to EPIA, the top three European PV markets in 2012 were:

  • Germany (with 7.6 GW)
  • Italy (3.3 GW)
  • France (1.2 GW)

And the top three non-European markets were:

  • China (with at least 3.5 GW and possibly as much as 4.5 GW)
  • U.S. (3.2 GW)
  • Japan (2.5 GW)

The fact that Germany alone installed about 25% of all solar power in 2012 is astounding to me. That super grey country has apparently nailed solar power incentives and has not gained a mature solar PV market that benefits from all of those cost drops that come from market saturation.

Any thoughts?