Growth of solar power soon to challenge nuclear

Solar photovoltaic capacity (PV) will soon match and even overtake nuclear energy’s global capacity, according to new US research. High demand means PV could even become the globe’s dominant energy source by 2050.

By the end of 2017, solar power plants around the world are predicted to have an installed capacity of 390GW, according to estimates by Greentech Media. That is just shy of the 391.5GW of nuclear capacity currently in operation.

GTM’s research shows that, for the very first time, solar and nuclear capacity will be on equal footing and demand in China could even push photovoltaics beyond atomic capacity by year’s end.

Their Global Solar Demand Monitor also showed that global solar capacity is likely to reach 871GW by 2022, doubling the current nuclear capacity.

GTM acknowledged that installed capacity does not tell the whole story and that atom-smashing still dominates in terms of total electricity generated. Nuclear power provides nearly 2.5 million GWh annually, whereas solar only provides 375,000GWh. That translates to 11% and 1.1% of worldwide generation.

But GTM insists that the International Energy Agency’s 2014 study of PV growth rates, which predicts that 16% of global demand could be satisfied by solar by 2050 under a high-growth scenario, “basically mirrors the current real-world scenario”.

As growth rates and cost reductions have exceeded expectations over the last three years, the IEA’s predicted 16% capacity would make solar the main global energy source by mid-century.

China has reached its 2020 solar power target three years ahead of schedule, after installed capacity topped well over its 105GW target.

New figures published by solar industry firm Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory (AECEA) shows that China has exceeded its 2020 target of 105GW of installed solar capacity, after new builds in June and July pushed it up beyond 112GW.

In the first half of 2017 saw capacity increased by 24.4GW, dwarfing similar efforts in Europe, and cementing China’s status as the world’s leading solar nation. Total new capacity for this year could reach 45GW. In contrast, in 2016 Germany’s total capacity was 41.1GW.

China’s ambitions are admittedly impressive. It already boasts the largest solar farm in the world, which measures in at over 30 square kilometres. It also recently opened the world’s largest floating solar farm, which is positioned over an old coal mine.

Further information

China solar growth


September 1, 2017