40GW of PV installed worldwide as Europe’s renewables overtook nuclear in ‘tipping point’ year

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The world deployed 40GW of PV in 2014, once again smashing previous records and meaning more solar was deployed during the year than industry leader Germany has installed to date.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), which recently rebranded and is now known as SolarPower Europe, launched Global Market Outlook For Solar Power/2015 – 2019 today at Intersolar Europe in Munich.

The report also describes 2014 as a “tipping point” in the European energy market’s composition, marking the first time ever that more power came from renewables than from nuclear. 

PV deployment has accelerated quickly and in the 14 years between 2000 and 2014, the cumulative installed capacity multiplied by a factor of 100, reaching 178GW, the organisation’s CEO, James Watson, said. The 40GW installation figure for the year was arrived at by adding together grid-connected projects, although the trade association said that adding up module shipment totals could bring the figure up as high as 44GW to 46GW. Germany has around 38GW of cumulative capacity installed.

Watson talked up the European market too, which by some measures has stalled with some regional markets dropping off, but Watson said nonetheless that the continent had managed to deploy some 7GW in 2014, with the UK contributing 2.4GW. While wide-ranging support schemes for large scale solar below 5MW capacity per project have ended in the UK since then, it is still expected to be the biggest market again in Europe this year by SolarPower Europe.

Despite new installations for Europe falling compared to 2012 and 2013 levels, the report's emphasis findings of solar’s growing cost-competitiveness. Watson believes UK PV deployment shows there is still a lot of potential for PV in Europe.

“The success of the UK, set to be the largest European market again in 2015, reinforces the evidence that solar power is a versatile and cost-efficient energy source in any climate,” Watson said.

“Solar power could grow by 80% in Europe by 2020.”

Globally, China topped the 2014 charts, installing 10.6GW, Japan coming in a close second with 9.7GW and the other traditionally buoyant market of recent years, the US, hitting 6.5GW of deployment. In five years’ time, the SolarPower Europe report predicts, the world could reach 540GW installed capacity.

System prices continued falling in 2014, with utility-scale (>1MW) installations now below €1 per Wp common in “several European countries”, the report found. Both modules and inverters have fallen in price and continue to do so. However, the trend for module prices declining has been arrested in Europe temporarily by the anti-dumping dispute with China, where an artificial minimum import price (MIP) has been imposed on Chinese-made solar modules. This is leading to higher deployment costs than elsewhere, with the global industry enjoying on average 75% drops in system price in the last 10 years.

The report goes into further detail on statistics, breakdowns by market segments, explanations of methodology and calculations while explaining the market dynamics and outlook for different technologies. It can be downloaded from SolarPower Europe’s website here. It will also be distributed from SolarPower Europe's booth (Hall B2, Number B2.119) at Intersolar Europe this week,

Also launching this week at Intersolar Europe, Volume 3 of PV Tech Power, the downstream solar technology journal from the publisher of PV Tech, takes a closer look at the PV market in Europe, with contributions from industry figures including SolarPower Europe's James Watson. Hard copies will be available at Intersolar Europe, while online readers can download the entire journal free of charge (subscription required).

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