OVERVIEW - Utility-scale solar tops 50 GW globally..en route to another record year

New utility-scale solar capacity by continent and by year. SeeNews Renewables & Wiki-Solar. All Rights Reserved.

Figures for the first three quarters already exceed last year’s record, with global utility-scale solar capacity passing 52 GW. In this month’s update, Wiki-Solar's Philip Wolfe assesses the year so far and welcomes newcomers to the ever-increasing number of countries now deploying large-scale photovoltaic power plants.

Utility-scale solar tops 50 GW globally
                                           … en route to another record year

October 29 (SeeNews) - The third quarter’s figures show that new capacity in 2015 has already beaten last year’s record of 13.6 GW. Cumulative installed capacity now exceeds 52 GW globally.

In the year so far, Asia has been the main engine of growth, with substantial new capacity added in China, India and Japan. Europe is recording its third year of increased deployment, thanks mainly to the UK. Don’t assume that North America is slowing, as appears here – it often registers close to half its annual capacity in the final quarter.

While the contribution of the other three continents remains modest, they are steadily building their share and may by year end account for over 10% of this year’s deployment.


The largest contributor to this year’s figures – by some margin – is China with over 5 GW of new capacity. This compares with 2 GW so far in the USA and a similar figure in the UK.

Almost 75% of China’s capacity is deployed in the five provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia. Much of this is concentrated in ‘giga-clusters’ like the one to the east of Golmud in Qinghai. The so-called Golmud Desert Cluster covers about 160 sq km and houses over 1 GW of PV capacity.

Such clusters have been planned with high capacity grid connections and are being continuously expanded with new plants, typically each between 20 MWp and 200 MWp. Similar clusters have been established at Jinchang, Qili and Jinta in Gansu, Zhongwei in Ningxia and Delingha in Qinghai.

Several states in India are taking a similar approach. This allows relatively lower-cost shared network connections, thereby improving the competitiveness of solar generation overall.


Until recently, utility-scale solar used to be an exclusive club; prior to 2011, only 11 countries had any plants over 4 MWAC. That number has now increased to 65. Amongst more recent entrants are Hungary, Brazil,Guam, Nigeria, Russia and Mauritius.

The club will continue to expand. Utility-scale projects have recently been announced in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Burundi, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Denmark. Other countries – such as Turkey, Nepal, Uzbekistanand Myanmar – have been planning projects for some time and should soon be commissioning their first solar power plants.


The 25 MWAC plant at Dandan in Guam was commissioned in October to become the largest in Oceania.

Also completed this month is the Rokkasho solar park in Aomori, which becomes Japan’s largest PV installation at 115 MWp.

Hungary’s first large-scale project, the 16MW plant at Visonta, was also commissioned in October.

Source of data:
All the details in these posts are based on the Wiki-Solar Database of some 5,000 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.

About the author:
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 the early 2000’s. Since then he has undertaken more broadly-based roles in renewable and community energy. His book on utility-scale solar was published in 2012.

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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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