OVERVIEW - Yet another record year as utility-scale solar goes mainstream

New utility-scale solar installations by continent by Wiki-Solar (wiki-solar.org).

March 8 (Renewables Now) - New utility-scale solar installations exceeded 40 GW in 2017 – continuing a run of eight consecutive record years. The global installed capacity reached 143 GW by year-end, having passed the 100-GW milestone early in 2017.

Photovoltaic (PV) installations account for 96% of this capacity and concentrated solar power (CSP) stands at about 6 GW, with half a gigawatt commissioned in 2017.

Asia again dominated new installations, with China and India advancing strongly. North America showed only marginal growth, while Europe declined for the second consecutive year. Progress accelerated in both South America and Africa. Australasia completed fewer large projects last year, but promises a stronger 2018.

“These figures scotch any fear that the growth of utility-scale solar might be throttled by declining incentives” says Wiki-Solar’s Philip Wolfe. “As photovoltaics become the low cost power source in more and more places, long-term growth now looks assured.”

Although the list of top countries was almost unchanged in 2017 – the only variation being the entry of Brazil at #15 – Wiki-Solar expects more movement over the next year or two. “Chile, Brazil and Mexico have substantial project pipelines, which should see them continuing to move up the league table”, says Wolfe. “European countries are expected to continue drifting backwards, though Spain is at last starting to look at installing new unsubsidised projects, and Italy may follow.”

Australia, too has a significant and growing pipeline, and can be expected to rise into the top 15 in the current year. Canada is for the first time starting to install projects beyond Ontario. Other countries to watch are Turkey and Russia, both of which have implemented tender mechanisms for renewable power.

Country Capacity in MW AC Country Capacity in MW AC
China 54,158 Chile 2,182
USA 29,335 South Africa 1,799
India 19,119 Canada 1,652
UK 6,710 Italy 1,313
Germany 4,420 Thailand 1,057
Spain 4,162 Philippines 963
Japan 3,331 Brazil 869
France 2,356    

These results are based on data published by the end of February 2017. Wiki-Solar notes that the figures tend to creep further upwards as later information is published.

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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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