With calls for a significant reduction in carbon emissions being intensified, many countries across the world have been rapidly increasing the installed capacity of renewable energy over the past few years. The growth in power generation from renewable sources is also led by concerns over the finite reserves of fossil fuels. The world’s energy mix is expected to witness a huge change over the next decades, with clean energy occupying a major share.
Among renewable energy projects, solar power plants have witnessed a massive increase in numbers over the past few years. With a vast availability and certainty of sun light, solar power projects have gained more importance than other forms of renewable energy sources such as wind and geothermal. Besides, with the advancements in technologies, including concentrated solar power generation techniques, and sharp decline in prices of PV modules, solar energy has emerged as a cost-effective source of renewable energy.
The total investments in renewable energy touched a new high of $329bn worldwide in 2015, according to a report by PowerWeb. In that year, the global solar PV industry witnessed a record growth, with total capacity reaching 229GW, which is over 100 times the capacity seen in 2000. The global installed solar power capacity is estimated to reach 355GW in 2017.
Here is the list of top solar power producing countries:
China: With an installed capacity of 43.4GW in 2015, China is the top solar power producer in the world. The country has boosted its solar power installations in recent years to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. It also framed new policies to accommodate more renewable energy in its energy mix. Besides, China is the world’s largest producer of PV modules, making nearly half of all PV grade poly-silicon. In May 2016, JA Solar started mass production of modules at its new 1.5GW photovoltaic (PV) panel facility in Hebei province, China. The country aims to build 10GWof concentrated solar power (CSP)projects by the end of this decade.
Image: China aims to build 10GW of concentrated solar power (CSP) projects by the end of this decade. Photo: Courtesy of worradmu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Germany: The European nation is the second largest producer of solar power in the world, with a total installed capacity of 39.7GW. To reduce its carbon emissions significantly, the country initiated Energiewende strategy that targets to increase the contribution of renewable energy to 60% of its energy mix by 2050. In 2015, the installed solar power capacity of Germany accounted for 41% of the total installed capacity of Europe. However, the country slipped to second position in terms of installed capacity, as China expanded its solar power capacity. According to PowerWeb estimates, Germany is likely to fall to fifth place with 48GW over the next 5 years.
Japan: With an installed solar power capacity of 34.3GW in 2015, Japan is the world’s third largest producer in the list. The country aims to generate about 24% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. In June 2017, GE Energy Financial Services (GE EFS) created a JPY43bn ($383m) solar fund in Japan, with Development Bank of Japan being the anchor investor.Some of the recently announced solar power plants includes the 257.7MW Sakuto Mega Solar Power Plant in Mimasaka; Canadian Solar’s 55MW solar plant in the Yamaguchi prefecture; and the 42MW Iwaki Mega Solar Power Plant in the Tohoku region, among others.
Image: Pacifico Energy starts construction of 42MW solar power plant in Fukushima. Photo: Courtesy of Business Wire.
US: The North American country is the fourth largest producer of solar power in the world, with an installed capacity of 25.9GW in 2015. The country is expected to grow its cumulative installed capacity from 25.9GW in 2015 to 85GW by the end of 2020, an increase of almost 60GW or 229%. At 85 GW in 2020, the US will be in second place after China, 22GW ahead of Japan, and 28GW ahead of India. The US is also estimated to see 31 of its states having over 100MW annual solar markets by 2022, according to a report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Italy: With an installed capacity of 18.6GW in 2015, Italy stands at fifth spot in the list of the largest solar power producers. Currently, the country meets nearly 10% of its electricity from solar power and the contribution is estimated to double in the next decade. According to data published by Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, in March this year, Italy generates more than 17% of its energy from renewable sources.
UK: It is the sixth largest producer of solar power in the world, with an installed capacity of 9.1GW in 2015. Solar power installations in the UK have received continuous support from the successive governments. In 2015, the country proposed to cut reduce subsidies for solar and biomass projects as part of its plans to control the costs of renewable energy. In a report released in that year, the UK Solar Trade Association (STA) had urged the government to adopt a higher solar ambition scenario with a target of 25GW by 2020.
Image: In 2015, the UK proposed to cut reduce subsidies for solar and biomass project. Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Beierle/Freeimages.com
France: The country recorded an installed solar power capacity of 6.5GW in 2015, standing at seventh place among top ten world’s largest solar power producing countries. In February 2017, the European Commission had approved three France initiatives to develop 2.6GW of solar and hydropower projects, supporting the schemes under the EU state aid rules. Under the three schemes, France plans to develop develop around 2600MW of additional solar capacity. By implementing the projects, France is expected to achieve its 2020 target of producing 23% of the energy through renewable sources.