The top solar countries - past, present and future | RenewEconomy

The top solar countries – past, present and future

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A changing of the guard in top solar countries – and another beckons as Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America set ambitious targets.

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Despite all the problems supposedly surrounding the solar PV sector – bankruptcies, oversupply, the phasing out of feed-in-tariffs and other incentives, government austerity packages and low economic growth – it is still expected to register strong growth this year.

According to US research firm Maxim Group, the solar PV sector is expected to grow around 18 per cent in 2013 to around 38GW. This follows a 23 per cent rise in 2012, and comes as major economies such as China, US, Japan, and India overcoming declines in recent leaders Germany and Italy, and because of new growth in other Asian countries, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

In particular, it points to South Africa, Ukraine, Poland, and Southeast Asia as the potential big movers “While off the radar, a few tertiary markets could be sleepers that surprise to the upside,” it says, noting South Africa’s renewable auction program, where 1GW has already been approved and has begun construction,  Ukraine’s slow but steady growth, Poland splashing onto the scene late 2012, and a Thailand-led boom in SE Asia.

And, it says Latin America, rest of Africa, and the Middle East “have leapt out the gate” with aggressive targets that will yield multi- GW pipelines in Chile, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar.

The Maxim researchers have put together some interesting statistics of which countries lead the way in solar PV. It is interesting to note where we were just a few years ago, where we are now, and where we will be in a few years.

Australia sticks stubbornly to 8th place, even though the names of the countries around them are shuffled over the years. All these figures are for annual installations in a particular calendar year. They are not aggregate totals.

10 top solar countries in 2007

1. Germany       1328MW

2. Spain             542MW

3. Japan            211MW

4. USA               160MW

5. Italy              70MW

6. Korea           50MW

7. China           20MW

8. Australia     12MW

9.  Portugal      11MW

10. Belgium    10MW

Total (for all countries)   2,826MW

10 top solar countries in 2012

1. Germany      7,630MW

2. China           4,950MW

3. Italy               4,223MW

4. USA              3,282MW

5. Japan          1,790MW

6. India            1,427MW

7. France         1,012MW

8. Australia    993MW

9. Bulgaria      933MW

10. UK              817MW

Total (for all countries) 32,340MW

Prediction for 10 top solar countries for 2014

1. China     10,640MW

2. USA       6,203MW

3.  Japan   4,731MW

4. Germany  3,682MW

5. India 2,288MW

6. Italy 1,985MW

7. UK 1,856MW

8. Australia 1,401MW

9. Canada 1,319MW

10. Chile 895MW

Total predicted (for all countries) 46,301MW

And then comes some interesting other movers, with Thailand (709MW), South Africa (501MW),  Korea (589MW), Mexico (685MW), Peru (484MW), and Brazil (488MW) beginning their push. Qatar (300MW and Saudi Arabia (225MW also begin to emerge as their ambitions programs start to be reflected in actual deployment.

In all, Maxim predicts that 30 countries will be installing 200MW or more of solar PV a year by 2014, up from just three in 2007. As UBS noted in its recent report, this is likely to have a major impact on utilities and energy markets – not just in Europe, but across the world.

Australia sticks stubbornly to 8th place in the rankings of top solar countries, even though the names of the countries around them are shuffled over the years. But the question is for how much longer. Australia’s installation is almost entirely rooftop solar PV on houses, but utility scale projects (1MW or more) are few and far between. Australia has less than 200MW in announced projects out to 2015, and this is dominated by AGL Energy’s 159MW Solar Flagship project.

By contrast, South Africa has 1,300MW of utility scale solar in the next two years, Chile has 2,814MW over the coming three years, Brazil has 1,441MW, and Mexico (840MW), Argentina (298MW), Peru (204MW), Ecuador (198MW) and even the Dominican Republic (270MW) have a bigger pipeline of utility scale projects than Australia. Hopefully, ARENA and the CEFC can help change that.


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  1. Assuming that is of course the ARENA and CEFC exist after this years election…

    It’s good to see such aggressive growth into solar but from all the predictions so far it still doesn’t seem like it will be enough to keep the planet under 2°… I wonder what the solar target would be to do that?

  2. colin 7 years ago

    You didn’t mention the biggest mover which is Germany ….down by 50%!! I don’t know what these figures are mean to represent. It certainly isn’t peak power, since Germany has passed 30GWpp. Could it be MW based on an average of the annual output over 24×365 hours? I suggest that the figures are checked and the article republished, with the correct figures for Germany (and maybe others) and some explanation of the energy units used!

    • Giles Parkinson 7 years ago

      Colin, this is annual installations, in terms of capacity installed. It’s not aggregate capacity, though i think you will find that Germany is around 35GW. I’ve adjusted the story to make it clearer that it is annual installations.

  3. colin 7 years ago


    It could be the amount of solar capacity added in that particular year, but that doesn’t make sense for the numbers for Australia. 1400 MW in 2014 … doubt it

    • Giles Parkinson 7 years ago

      Our posts must have crossed in the inter web. Yes, annual installations. Don’t see why Australia’s 2014 doesnt make sense, is within the range of various forecasts i have seen, albeit at the top end. We might even have some utility scale installations by then, and a whole lot more commercial, if the network operators don’t get in the way.

      • colin 7 years ago

        I can only hope you are right baout the 1.4 GW. We are going to have to do something about these units of energy when solar storage like molten salts or similar come on line. Their 1MW capacity will produce 6-8 GWHrs per year compared with solar at 1.3GWHr and wind a bit higher

  4. Bob Wallace 7 years ago

    Take a look at the number of watts per capita in 2012…

    Germany 93

    China 4

    Italy 70

    USA 11

    Japan 14

    India 1

    France 15

    Australia 44

    Bulgaria 123

    UK 13

    Australia looks a lot better, Bulgaria blows everyone away.

    est. 2012 populations

  5. Leif Lemke 7 years ago

    If would be more useful to know what is actually generated from these installations, so that the public could compare with other sources of electric power.

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