2-28-2015 What Solar Markets Around the World Look Like in 2015
Solar power has gained international attention as one of the best clean-energy options available. In the United States, as in Australia and Germany, solar is used as a means to reduce carbon footprints and escape costly energy bills. In developing countries, solar offers unprecedented ease of access and affordability.
Though the solar industry has made inroads worldwide, it looks different in each region, changing to fit the needs of each country and its people. While the focus in the United States is creating better solar-grid connections, many developing countries focus on battery storage.
Here’s a snapshot of what the solar markets look like across the globe.
Solar has made its presence felt in the U.S., and it’s here to stay. 2014 was a strong year for the American solar industry. From 2013 to 2014 solar employment increased by 22 percent, contributing to solar’s position as the fastest-growing industry in the U.S.
Residential solar installations continue to rise. There are over 17,500 MW of total solar electric capacity in America. That’s enough to power over 3.5 million homes. Considering the price for photovoltaic (PV) systems has dropped by about 11%, the solar industry can expect to see a new wave of installations in 2015.
Solar power is plowing ahead in Latin America and enjoying unprecedented growth. The region’s solar industry grew 370% and installed 625 MW of PV in 2014. This impressive growth trend is expected to continue in 2015, making the Latin American market one of the fastest-growing solar markets ever. GTM analysts forecast that the region will install 2.1 gigawatts of PV this year.
While the U.S. enjoyed a solar growth spurt in 2014, Germany’s solar market installed fewer watts than expected. Many analysts thought that Germany would add more than two gigawatts of PV systems in 2014. However, official figures put that number at 1.89 GW.
Though 2014 was lower than expected, analysts aren’t worried about the state of the German solar market. In 2013, the country added 3.14 GW of solar PV, and in 2012 it added 7.27 GW. Forecasts for 2015 place Germany at 2.5 MW of PV solar, and the country is on track to achieve that number.
Solar has made great inroads in Africa, and it’s expected to continue growing. In Tanzania, Off-Grid Electric, a startup solar company, is pushing to install solar in one million homes by the end of 2017. Off-Grid Electric operates a unique pay-as-you go model for Tanzanian residents that allows them to enjoy the benefits of electricity for as little as 20 cents a day.
According to the World Bank, only 23% of Kenyans, 14.8% of Tanzanians, and 10.8% of Rwandans have electricity. Despite the impressive solar farms being built in South Africa and Ghana, there are still about 585 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who don’t have access to electricity. The key to solar in Africa, as in much of the developing world, is off-grid technology.
The importance of battery storage for solar is most evident in India. A report from Climate Group and the Goldman Sachs Center for Environmental Markets found that sales of solar home systems in India are expected to grow at 60 percent a year until 2018. Currently, 360 million Indians live off-grid.
Like their African counterparts, Indians living off-grid typically rely on kerosene and diesel generators, both of which are dangerous and cause pollution. The report notes that the potential for off-grid solutions like battery storage is huge in India. However, with solar installers’ gross profit margin often at four percent or less, India’s solar boom may take a little longer to get going.
Australians, tired of paying high electricity bills, are increasingly turning to solar. Australian analysts SunWiz have concluded that the country’s solar market will likely exceed its 2014 numbers. Rooftop solar system size is growing. SunWiz found that 825MW of solar systems smaller than 100kWP were installed in 2014. That number is up from 810MW the year before.
Despite the increase in megawatts, the number of solar systems installed decreased by eight percent, dropping to 187,000. While this does signal a drop in the residential solar market, SunWiz expects commercial solar to pick up the slack.
A Global Marketplace
The overall global demand for solar energy is growing. In developed countries striving to reduce their carbon emissions, solar continues to be the go-to source for clean energy. For developing countries, solar could be the answer to economic problems, giving people the ability to escape energy poverty.