The total number of solar power added worldwide increased by 50 percent last year, largely due to a huge expansion by the US and China.  

Solar photovoltaic capacity installed in 2016 was more than 67 gigawatts, up from 50GW the year before.

Both US and China almost doubled the amount of solar they added in 2015, this according to data compiled by Europe’s solar power trade body. Worldwide there currently exists 305GW of solar capacity, compared to 50GW in 2010 and almost zero in 2000.

solar power

SIGNIFICANT GROWTH

Solar power technology is an absolutely crucial method the world must employ in order to meet climate change needs and commitments.

James Watson, the chief executive of SolarPower Europe, said: “In order to meet the Paris [climate agreement] targets, it would be important if solar could continue its rapid growth. The global solar industry is ready to do that, and can even speed up.”

SOLAR POWER IN EUROPE

In Britain, however, the story is less pleasant. The amount of solar power installed in 2016 fell by almost half as the government ended subsidies for large-scale solar farms, and drastically cut incentives for households to fit solar panels.

Despite this, the UK still lead Europe for solar growth with 29% of new capacity, with Germany and France trailing at 21% and 8.3% resepectively. Germany still is the leader for total solar capacity having moved to establish their solar industry several years ago, with Italy a close second.

However, the slow growth in Europe as a whole has prompted calls for the EU to set more ambitious renewable energy targets.

“We need to build a major industrial project around solar and renewables. To start with, increasing the 2030 renewable energy target to at least 35% [up from 27%] will send a strong signal that Europe is back in the solar business,” said Alexandre Roesch, policy director at SolarPower Europe.

Solar is still relatively small, with only 4% of Europe’s energy needs addressed by the green technology.

Denmark is producing 43% of its energy from renewables, and it aims for 70% by 2020. Germany, at more than 25% now and 30% soon, is going for 40% to 45% clean power by 2025, 55% to 60% by 2035, and an incredible 80% by 2050. China, despite many challenges, is the world’s leading source of renewable investment, as well as the largest solar manufacturer.

POWER THE WORLD

In order to remove the entire world’s dependence on other forms of energy, an area the size of Spain would need to be converted into solar panels.

The maths is as follows: 678 quadrillion Btu (the US Energy Information Administration’s estimation of global energy consumption by 2030) = 198,721,800,000,000 kilowatt-hours (simple conversion) divided by 400 kilowatt-hours of solar energy production per square meter of land (based on 20% efficiency, 70% sunshine days per year and the fact that 1,000 watts of solar energy strikes each square meter of land on Earth) = 496,805 square kilometers of solar panels (191,817 square miles)

All this is good news, but China and the US still emit 45% of human CO2 emissions and these recently went up to 410 ppm in the Northern Hemisphere. We need to be taking CO2 out of the atmosphere as well as increasing our Green power consumption.