As Australia’s big solar market gears up for a potentially “huge” 2017, 2016 has been chalked up as another record year for utility-scale solar, globally, with cumulative capacity falling just short of 100GW, and a new annual record for new installations set at almost 35GW.
According to figures released on Friday by Wiki-Solar.org, new capacity growth in the 4MW-and-above solar market was led by China and India – and capped off by a bumper final month in the US – pushing the world’s installed large-scale solar capacity to 96MW by the end of last year.
By continent, as you can see in the chart below, North America was up 129 per cent on its 2015 figures, after registering almost 3GW of new capacity in December alone.
In Asia, where India has joined China as one of the world’s top utility-scale markets, there was 57 per cent year on year growth, accounting for about two-thirds of new global capacity in 2016.
Europe let the side down, however, with a 50 per cent decline in the market since 2015, a slump Wiki-Solar puts down to “adverse government action” in the UK.
Africa and South America both grew by an enormous 200 per cent-plus; and Australasia stayed level, with a total at the end of 2016 of just 0.3GW, although like other market watchers, Wiki-Solar says the region “promises more in the future,” not least from the Australian development pipeline.
“We thought we might just make the cumulative 100 GW milestone, when we saw the Chinese, American and Indian figures come in”, said Wiki-Solar founder Philip Wolfe, “but in the end the global total finished the year just short, at 96GW.
“So expect to break through the magic 100GW milestone any day now – probably when this month’s figures are in.”
Wolfe says the world could be heading for yet another record year in 2017, but notes this is getting harder to predict against an increasingly volatile political background.
“The pipeline still looks strong, especially in India and Chile, while Brazil and Australia should soon be delivering more new capacity. But the demise of the European market is disappointing, and we have to hope that the US remains buoyant after the change of federal administration.”
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.