Solar market hitting new heights, as costs keep dropping


The solar market is growing at an unprecedented rate, with a possibility that there could be 700 GW of installed PV across the world by 2020, according to a new report from SolarPower Europe.

There is great reason to be excited within the solar industry, after experiencing a record breaking year in 2015, which saw the total global capacity of solar PV reach 229 GW. More than 50 GW was installed in 2015 alone, and SolarPower Europe’s new report Global Market Outlook for Solar Power 2016-2020 predicts that another record-breaking year is in store, during which more than 60 GW will be installed, although demand in Europe is wavering.

The report predicts that 62 GW of capacity is likely to be installed across the world in 2016, but that most of this will be in Asian markets. China is the biggest driver of these capacity increases, where 7 GW of solar was installed in Q1 of 2016 alone.

Unfortunately, similar trends cannot be found in Europe. In fact, although the region became the first in the world to pass 100 GW of installed PV in 2015, amid 8.2 GW of PV being installed on the continent, SolarPower Europe expects demand to decrease in 2016.

“While this is the first upward trend since 2011, it is likely that demand in the European continent will slow down, primarily due to the termination of support for utility-scale solar in the U.K.,” commented SolarPower Europe CEO, James Watson. “What European solar needs now is the right electricity market design.”

Despite the poor outlook for 2016, the report did anticipate that Europe will return to “a growth path,” by 2017.

Costs keep falling

One of the great takeaways from 2015 was the falling price of electricity generated from solar. That trend has continued into 2016, with a solar bid as low as 2.99 cents per KWh in a recent bid in Dubai. This has seen solar become one of the most cost-effective power generation technologies, and looks set to continue into the future.

“Solar power is increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels and distributed solar is cheaper than retail electricity in many countries,” said Michael Schmela, executive advisor of SolarPower Europe and lead author of the report. “In 2016, solar also became cheaper than on-shore wind power in parts of the globe.”

These trends have seen SolarPower Europe up its estimates for future PV installations from the forecasts it presented last year. The estimate in the Global Market Outlook 2015-2019 was that there would be 450 GW of installed PV by 2019, but the current report forecasts that 516 GW of installed PV will be the most likely scenario for 2019.

“Solar is booming and continues to break records in many parts of the world, which gives us reasons to believe 700 GW globally installed solar power is possible by 2020,” said President of SolarPower Europe Oliver Schafer. However, for this to be the case, a stable regulatory environment that understands renewable energy is needed.

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