USA hot on Europe’s heels as global utility PV hits 9GW

The global installed capacity of utility-scale solar power stations hit the 9GW mark in 2012 after another record year of installations of power stations rated 10MW and higher, analysis from Wiki-Solar has revealed.

The analysis also reported that Europe’s dominance in the utility-scale solar market is slipping, with the USA coming a close second to Germany for new installations in 2012. Both countries added around 1.1GW to their installed capacity out of a global total of nearly 3.5GW – in Germany largely thanks to a late surge in installations to beat changes to their feed-in tariffs.

Supported also by a good year in France, which installed 271MW of new utility-scale PV, and new entrant Bulgaria, which installed 170MW, Europe held about 50% of the world market, well down from the 70% it achieved in 2010.

China and India are also marching up the table, installing 191MW and 266MW respectively, leading a growing contribution in Asia.

According to Wiki-Solar chief Philip Wolfe, 2013 will see the USA overtake Europe in new installations for the first time: “It should also reach the top of the all-time cumulative installations list, as Germany slows after large systems became ineligible for tariffs,” he said. “Much of the new US capacity this year is from projects, which are still under construction. so there’s plenty more to come from there.

“Candidates to enter the top twenty for the first time include Chile, the UK and maybe South Africa, if it can get some of its project pipeline connected,” he added. “We also expect continued growth from Asia, and a greater contribution from South America. It’s good to see other countries picking up the lead, now that Germany and Spain have set the pace.”

Wiki-Solar also confirmed that US and German integrators lead utility-scale solar development. Its list ranks developers of large-scale solar plants – defined by Wiki-Solar as installations over 10 MW – in terms of total installed capacity.

Seven of the top eleven are German or US-based ‘system integrators’ – companies which both develop and install the projects – and three, First Solar, Hanwha Q-Cells and SunPower, also produce their own solar modules. US-based First Solar tops the list with 572 MW of installed capacity, while US-based SunEdison and Austria’s ActivSolar follow with 320 MW and 306MW installed capacity respectively.

Further reading - Can the US solve its solar power puzzle?


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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity