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OVERVIEW - Emerging hot-spots for utility-scale solar

Featured image by John S. Quarterman. License: Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic.

As global utility-scale solar capacity heads towards 50 GW, the latest update by Wiki-Solar’s Philip Wolfe assesses the regional drivers for continued growth.

September 1 (SeeNews) - The half-yearly figures published in July showed little change to the top dozen countries, which hold most of the world’s installed capacity. However, look below the surface – at growth rates – and you find an interesting picture of new regions promising to make an increasing impact on the sector.

All of Honduras’ impressive 280 MW of capacity has been installed this year. The table lists the other top countries for utility-scale solar by growth rate.

Country Cumulative 2015 Installs % in 2015
Honduras 0.28 GW 0.28 GW 100.0%
Philippines 0.25 GW 0.22 GW 88.3%
Mexico 0.36 GW 0.30 GW 83.5%
Australia 0.13 GW 0.10 GW 78.2%
Pakistan 0.13 GW 0.09 GW 66.7%
United Kingdom 4.19 GW 1.98 GW 47.3%
Japan 1.44 GW 0.60 GW 41.9%
Israel 0.25 GW 0.09 GW 36.6%
Chile 0.74 GW 0.27 GW 35.9%
India 3.24 GW 0.88 GW 27.2%
Canada 1.38 GW 0.34 GW 25.0%
South Africa 1.01 GW 0.16 GW 15.9%
USA 10.55 GW 1.62 GW 15.4%
Thailand 0.99 GW 0.14 GW 14.0%
France 1.32 GW 0.11 GW 8.0%
China 11.96 GW 0.94 GW 7.8%

This shows the extent to which other relative new entrants including the Philippines, Mexico, Australia and Pakistan are starting to become serious players in the utility-scale solar marketplace. Israel too has been a late entrant for the deployment of PV, having of course been a leading adopter of solar thermal technology for many years.

We have previously discussed the recent explosive growth in the UK up to the first quarter of 2015. This has subsequently slowed and threatens to come to an ignominious halt in 2016, if recently announced proposals by the government are implemented.

The Japanese market has been rejuvenated in recent months, and a large pipeline of projects under construction promises continuing advances. At a lower level, Canada, Thailand and France are also ramping up their deployment, after a relatively quiet period. France has recently doubled the amount of capacity to be installed under the latest auction round, so will continue to advance.

Solar power represents the low cost electricity generation source in Chile, so one can expect relentless growth there. Indeed, more project completions might have been expected, but for the logistical and regulatory constraints in implementing projects in relatively remote parts of the country. First Solar’s 141-MW Luz del Norte project, for example, started construction last October and should be completed by the end of the year, while similar projects in North America, Europe or China are typically built in just a few months. South Africa similarly experiences longer project gestation periods, but is continuing to ramp up capacity as it works its way through successive rounds of its REIPPP.

Don't be deceived by India's modest position on this table; it has very ambitious aspirations for the growth of solar generation, which should see it become one of the world's very largest markets. The United States already is, and with an installed capacity base exceeding 10 GW finds it harder to deliver very high percentage growth.

China's position will inevitably be understated, because actual figures take some months to emerge. It is inevitable that its growth rate too will prove to be in double figures.

Can we hope finally to see Germany back on the list? Its new auction process has selected over 300 MW of capacity and is slated to source up to 500 MW this year. Only time will tell how much of this gets built and when.

OTHER RECENT UTILITY-SCALE PV PROJECTS AND DEVELOPMENTS

The Grand R E project in Haldimand Ontario was completed in July to become -- at 100 MW alternating current (AC) -- Canada’s largest. As this is owned in part by the Six Nations of the Grand River, it is also arguably the world’s largest community-owned solar power station.

Also completed in July was the long-awaited 40 MWp extension to Israel’s oldest utility-scale PV plant at Ketura in the Southern Negev.

The Shirsuphal plant connected in July became -- at 52 MWp -- the second largest in Maharashtra, behind the Sakri project completed earlier in the year.

Source of data

All the details in these posts are based on the Wiki-Solar Database of some 4,500 utility-scale PV solar projects around the world. Unless otherwise stated, capacities are expressed in terms of the AC output of the plant, and ‘utility-scale’ is defined as projects of 4 MWAC and over.

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Philip Wolfe has been in renewables since the 1970’s when he was founder Chief Executive of BP Solar. He led companies in the PV sector until appointed Director General of the Renewable Energy Association from 2003 to 2009. His book on utility-scale solar was published in 2012.

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