The whole of Europe connected 11GW of solar PV in 2018, up 20% year-on-year from 9.2GW in 2017, according to estimates from trade association SolarPower Europe.
Meanwhile, the European Union deployed roughly 8GW of solar PV in 2018, up an impressive 36% from the 5.9GW installed in the prior year.
Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, said: “It is good to see Europe fully embracing solar again. With solar being the most popular energy source among EU citizens, the most versatile and often also the lowest cost power generation source, and with cost reductions continuing, we are only at the beginning of a long upward trend for solar in Europe.”
Europe’s largest solar markets last year included: Germany with 2.96GW installed, up 68% from 1.76GW in 2017; followed by Turkey with 1.64GW installed, down 37% from the year before; and the Netherlands with 1.4GW, up from 0.77GW in 2017.
The Netherlands was described as a “rising solar star” by SolarPower Europe and is said to now be entering the ‘solar gigawatt-club’ for the first time. Representatives from prominent European PV companies and a major Chinese module supplier, last year, said that Europe's speeding towards grid parity for solar and the rise of subsidy-free PV could awake a “sleeping giant“.
Reflecting on the new figures, Aurélie Beauvais, policy director of SolarPower Europe, added: “We will see very strong demand for solar in Europe in the next two years. One of the main reasons is the upcoming EU 2020 targets, where many member states will opt for low-cost solar to meet their obligations.”
Beauvais also praised the removal of trade measures such as the minimum import price (MIP) on solar module imports and the positive framework offered by the Clean Energy Package legislation – adding: “The stage is set for significant solar growth. Now it is important that EU member states enforce the right national climate and energy plans to sustain this solar boom.”
The EU's 36% solar market growth was impressive, said Michael Schmela, executive advisor and head of market intelligence at SolarPower Europe, but the number could have been even higher. Sudden demand from China at the end of 2018 had led to a supply shortage for high-quality panels in Europe, forcing several developers to delay the completion of projects into 2019.
Despite the MIP removal, at the end of 2018, SolarPower Europe said it had itself started a major campaign to bring back at least 5GW of large-scale PV manufacturing in the region, including the complete supply chain required to support the scheme.