OVERVIEW - Global utility-scale PV capacity reaches 40 GW in Q1

Annual utility-scale solar capacity additions by region. SeeNews Renewables. All rights reserved.

Now that utility-scale solar is an over USD-100-billion sector, SeeNews Renewables has engaged Wiki-Solar founder Philip Wolfe to provide a monthly round-up of developments. This first in the series looks at progress during the quarter to the end of March 2015.


April 22 (SeeNews) - The impressive growth in deployment of utility-scale solar continues, with global installed capacity reaching 40 GW in the first quarter of 2015. Europe, North America, Asia and South America all made significant contributions.

Achievement at national level was led by the UK, where over 1 GW was installed in a scramble to complete projects before they became ineligible for the Renewables Obligation from April 1. Final figures are not yet available, because the British energy regulator can take months to register new projects, but the UK has certainly leap-frogged India in the cumulative league table. When the final figures are in, it may well have overtaken Germany to reach the number-three position for cumulative installed capacity, behind the USA and China.

The table below shows the top countries for new utility-scale solar installations in Q1 2015.

Rank Country 2015 YTD new capacity
1 UK over 1,000 MW
2 USA 588 MW
3 China 303 MW
4 Japan 296 MW
5 Chile 274 MW
6 Canada 203 MW

In terms of new installations during the quarter, other countries were led by the traditional market leaders, USA and China. Meanwhile Japan and Chile are continuing their march up the global utility-scale league table. Both countries have significant numbers of projects under construction and will stay amongst the major markets over the next two or three years.


Amongst significant new projects undertaken during the quarter were:

-- Completion of the 255 MW alternating current (AC) third phase of the Copper Mountain project in Searchlight, Nevada;

-- The Valle project in Honduras is approaching completion at 104 MW AC;

-- Guatemala’s largest project, the 50 MWp Horus I in Santa Rosa, was commissioned;

-- The 41 MWp solar project at Landmead Farm, the UK’s largest to date, was accredited;

China continues its impressive record in renewable energy development; in particular expanding major solar clusters around Jinchang in Gansu, Golmud in Qinghai, Wuzhong in Ningxia and Kumul in Xinjiang.

Sunpower Corp’s Solar Star project, expected to be the world’s largest when it reaches its full 579 MW AC capacity, has over 400 MW connected, and is expected to be completed during the coming quarter.

Additionally, Pakistan is commissioning the first 100 MW of its planned 1 GW Quaid-E-Azam Solar Park, and several new plants are under construction in Israel.


Utility-scale solar is no longer reserved for a few wealthy nations. Other countries which have recently announced new proposed developments include Ghana, Jordan, Algeria and Iraq.

Earlier this month, South Africa confirmed that further solar capacity will be developed by some of the 13 winning bidders under Round 4 of its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPP) Programme. Earlier rounds have already taken the rainbow nation into the top 10 countries for utility-scale solar.

Innovative approaches include large-scale floating installations, planned in Japan and the USA, and further canal-top systems in India.

The sector continues to attract the attention of major technology companies. Following a series of investments by Google last year, Apple is now investing in solar projects not only for its own US data centres, but also as an independent power producer in China.

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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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