In 2020, global energy demand fell by 4.5%, but despite this, progress in renewable energy technology is still encouraging. Renewable energy has seen strong growth across the board, with solar energy taking the lead, with an installed capacity of 127GW in 2020, the highest annual capacity expansion ever.
The above infographic uses data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to map the solar power capacity of various countries in 2021, including solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power capacity.
China is the undisputed leader in installed solar capacity, with more than 35% of global capacity. More importantly, this country shows no signs of slowing down. The scale of wind and solar projects under development in China is the largest in the world, which will increase its clean energy capacity by another 400,000 MW.
Following China is the United States. In the first three months of 2021, the United States installed another 50,000 MW photovoltaic project. Recently, the photovoltaic capacity of the United States exceeded 100,000 MW. In the past ten years, the average annual growth rate of solar energy in the United States was 42%, which is impressive. Policies such as solar investment tax credits provide 26% tax credits for household and commercial solar systems, driving the industry forward.
Australia’s solar power generation is only a small part of China, but due to its relatively small population, only 26 million, it ranks among the top per capita. The amount of solar radiation on the Australian continent is the highest of all continents. Currently, more than 30% of Australian households have rooftop solar photovoltaic systems.
China: Solar Champion
In 2020, President Xi Jinping stated that China’s goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, and China is taking measures to achieve this goal.
China is a leader in the solar energy industry. China seems to have cracked the code of the entire solar supply chain. In 2019, Chinese companies produced 66% of the world’s polysilicon, which is the cornerstone of silicon-based photovoltaic modules. In addition, more than three-quarters of solar cells and 72% of global photovoltaic modules come from China.
Of the 10 largest solar power plants in the world, 5 are all in China. In summary, this is not surprising. With the transition to carbon neutrality, China may continue to build more power stations.
What is driving the solar power boom?
The energy transition is a major factor in the rise of renewable energy, but the growth of solar energy is partly, because over time, its price has become very cheap. In the past ten years, the cost of solar energy has decreased exponentially, and now it is the cheapest source of new energy power.
Since 2010, the cost of solar power has fallen by 85%, from US$0.28 per kWh to US$0.04. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that economies of scale have been the most important factor in the continued decline in costs over the past decade. In other words, as more and more solar modules are installed and manufactured globally, production has become cheaper and more efficient.
due to supply chain issues, the cost of solar energy is rising this year. However, as the bottleneck problem is resolved, this rise is likely to be only temporary.