Many industrialized nations have installed significant solar power capacity into their grids to supplement or provide an alternative to other sources. Long distance transmission allows remote renewable energy resources to displace fossil fuel consumption. Solar power plants use one of two technologies:
The worldwide growth of photovoltaics is extremely dynamic and varies strongly by country. In 2013, China, followed by Japan and the United States, has been the leader of new PV installations and ranks now second behind world leader Germany. The worldwide photovoltaic capacity grew by 38 percent to a total of 139 GW. This is sufficient to generate 160 TWh every year or about 0.85 percent of the electricity demand on the planet.
As of April 2013, the largest individual photovoltaic (PV) power plants in the world are Agua Caliente Solar Project, (Arizona, 250 MW, increased to 290MW in 2014), California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) a 250 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic power plant, by SunPower in the Carrizo Plain, northeast of California Valley, Golmud Solar Park (China, 200 MW), Welspun Energy Neemuch Project (India, 150 MW), Mesquite Solar project (Arizona, 150 MW), Neuhardenberg Solar Park (Germany, 145 MW), Templin Solar Park (Germany, 128 MW), Toul-Rosières Solar Park (France, 115 MW), and Perovo Solar Park (Ukraine, 100 MW).
Solar thermal power stations include the 354 megawatt (MW) Solar Energy Generating Systems power installation in the USA, Solnova Solar Power Station (Spain, 150 MW), Andasol solar power station (Spain, 150 MW) and the first part of Shams solar power station (United Arab Emirates, 100 MW). The 370 MW Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, located in California's Mojave Desert, is the world’s largest solar thermal power plant project currently under construction. The Solana Generating Station is a 280 MW solar power plant which is under construction about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Phoenix, Arizona. There are plans to build many other large solar thermal plants.
Many African countries receive on average a very high amount of days per year with bright sunlight, especially the dry areas, which include the deserts (such as the Sahara) and the steppes (such as the Sahel). This gives solar power the potential to bring energy to virtually any location in Africa without the need for expensive large scale grid level infrastructural developments. The distribution of solar resources across Africa is fairly uniform, with more than 85% of the continent's landscape receiving at least 2,000 kWh/(m² year). A recent study indicates that a solar generating facility covering just 0.3% of the area comprising North Africa could supply all of the energy required by the European Union.
South Africa is expected to reach an installed capacity 8,400 MW by 2030, along with 8,400 MW of wind power. The countries insolation greatly exceeds the average values in Europe, Russia, and most of North America.
Solar power in the People's Republic of China is one of the biggest industries in mainland China. In 2007 China produced 1700 MW of solar panels, nearly half of the world production of 3800 MW, although 99% was exported.
Chinese solar panel production reportedly quadrupled between 2009 and 2011 to surpass the entire global demand. As a result, the EU accused China of dumping its solar panels in Europe at below-cost prices, involving 20 billion U.S. dollars of trade between the two powers.
As well, solar water heating is extensively implemented.
Large PV power plants in China include the 200MW Golmud Solar Park.
India is densely populated and has high solar insolation, an ideal combination for using solar power in India. In the solar energy sector, some large projects have been proposed, and a 35,000 km2 area of the Thar Desert has been set aside for solar power projects, sufficient to generate 700 GW to 2,100 GW.
In July 2009, India unveiled a US$19 billion plan to produce 20 GW of solar power by 2020. Under the plan, the use of solar-powered equipment and applications would be made compulsory in all government buildings, as well as hospitals and hotels. On 18 November 2009, it was reported that India was ready to launch its National Solar Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, with plans to generate 1,000 MW of power by 2013.
According to a 2011 report by GTM Research and BRIDGE TO INDIA, India is facing a perfect storm of factors that will drive solar photovoltaic (PV) adoption at a "furious pace over the next five years and beyond". The falling prices of PV panels, mostly from China but also from the U.S., has coincided with the growing cost of grid power in India. Government support and ample solar resources have also helped to increase solar adoption, but perhaps the biggest factor has been need. India, "as a growing economy with a surging middle class, is now facing a severe electricity deficit that often runs between 10 and 13 percent of daily need".
The Charanka Solar Park, at 214 MW the largest in the world, was commissioned on April 19, 2012, along with a total of 605 MW in Gujarat, representing 2/3 of India's installed photovoltaics. Large solar parks have also been announced in the state of Rajasthan. The 40 MW Dhirubhai Ambani Solar Park was commissioned on March 31, 2012.
Current total grid connected solar capacity in India stood at 2,632 MW as on March 31, 2014.
Solar power in Japan has been expanding since the late 1990s. The country is a leading manufacturer of solar panels and is in the top 5 ranking for countries with the most solar PV installed, with 4,914 MW installed at the end of 2011, making it third in the world in total solar power (behind Germany and Italy), with most of it grid connected. The insolation is good at about 4.3 to 4.8 kWh/(m²·day).
Pakistan is setting up a solar power park, funded by the Chinese company TBEA, in the Cholistan desert near Yazman, about 30 kilometers from the eastern city of Bahawalpur. The solar project, which is to be set up on 5,000 acres, would produce 1,000 MW when completed. The first phase would be the development of eight projects of 50 Megawatts each.
The Sinan solar power plant is a 24 MW photovoltaic power station in Sinan, Jeollanam-do, South Korea. As of 2009[update], it is the largest photovoltaic installation in Asia. The project was developed by the German company Conergy and it cost US$150 million. It was built by the Dongyang Engineering & Construction Corporation.
Austria had 421.7 MW of photovoltaics at the end of 2012, 234.5 MW of which was installed that year. Most of it is grid connected. Photovoltaic deployment in Austria had been rather modest for many years, while in other European countries, such as Germany, Italy or Spain installations were booming with new records year after year until 2011. The tide has turned in 2012. New PV installations jumped to more than 200 megawatt per year in Austria in an overall declining European solar market. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association forecasts, that Austria, together with other midsized countries, will contribute significantly to European PV deployment in the coming years.
In December 2009, Katoen Natie announced that they would install 800,000 m² of solar panels in various places, including Antwerp. It is expected that the installed solar power in the Flemish region will be increased by 25% when finished, resulting in the largest installation in Europe., the total cost being 166 million euros.
Bulgaria had seen a record year in 2012 when its PV capacity multiplied serveral times over to more than 1 GW. In 2013, however, further deployment came to an halt.
Germany is the world's leader of photovoltaic capacity since 2005. The overall capacity has reached 36 gigawatts (GW) by February 2014. Photovoltaics contribute almost 6% to the national electricity demands. However, the boom period has ended in 2012, and Germany's national PV market has since declined significantly, due to the amendments in the German Renewable Energy Act (EEG) that reduced feed-in tariffs and set constraints on utility-scaled installations, limiting their size to no more than 10 MW.
The current version of the EEG only guarantees financial assistance as long as the overall PV capacity has not yet reached 52 GW. It also foresees to regulate annual PV growth within a range of 2.5 GW to 3.5 GW by adjusting the guaranteed fees accordingly. The legislative reforms stipulates a 40 to 45 percent share from renewable energy sources by 2025 and a 55 to 60 percent share by 2035.
Germay has seen an outstanding period of photovoltaic installations from 2010 until 2012. During this boom, about 22 GW, or a third of the worldwide PV installations of that period was deployed in Germany alone.
By September 2013, the total installed photovoltaic capacity in Greece had reached 2,523.5 MWp from which the 987.2 MWp were installed in the period between January–September 2013 despite the unprecedented financial crisis. Greece ranks 5th worldwide with regard to per capita installed PV capacity. It is expected that PV produced energy will cover up to 7% of the country's electricity demand in 2014.
A large solar PV plant is planned for the island of Crete. Research continues into ways to make the actual solar collecting cells less expensive and more efficient. Smaller solar PV farms exist throughout the country.
The Montalto di Castro Photovoltaic Power Station is a photovoltaic power station at Montalto di Castro in Viterbo province. The project was built in several phases. The first phase with a total capacity of 24 MW was connected in late 2009. The second phase (8 MW) was commissioned in 2010, and the third and fourth phases, totaling 44 MW, were completed in December 2010.
As of the end of 2010, there are 155,977 solar PV plants, with a total capacity of 3,469.9 MW.:24 The number of plants and the total capacity surged in 2009 and 2010 following high incentives from Conto Energia. The total power capacity installed tripled and plants installed doubled in 2010 compared to 2009, with an increase of plant's average dimensions.:24
Energy production from photovoltaics was 1,905.7 GWh in 2010. Annual growth rates were fast in recent years: 251% in 2009 and 182% in 2010.:30 More than a fifth of the total production in 2010 came from the southern region of Apulia.:30
A large photovoltaic power project, the Serpa solar power plant, has been completed in Portugal, in one of Europe's sunniest areas. The 11 megawatt plant covers 150 acres (0.61 km2) and comprises 52,000 PV panels. The panels are raised 2 metres off the ground and the area will remain productive grazing land. The project will provide enough energy for 8,000 homes and will save an estimated 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
The Moura photovoltaic power station is located in the municipality of Moura, in the interior region of Alentejo, Portugal.Its construction involves two stages, with the first one being constructed in 13 months and completed in 2008, and the other will be completed by 2010, at a total cost of €250 million for the project.
Romania has an installed capacity of 740.4 MW as of 2013—a 15 fold increase from 2012. Romania is located in an area with a good solar potential of 210 sunny days per year and with an annual solar energy flux between 1,000 kWh/m2/year and 1,300 kWh/m2/year. The most important solar regions of Romania are the Black Sea coast, Dobrogea and Oltenia.
Current production of 5 MW is very modest, however there are plans for an expansion in capacity by 70 MW in 2012-13 in a $210 million joint project by Rosnano and Renova.
Spain is one of the most advanced countries in the development of solar energy, since it is one of the countries of Europe with more hours of sunshine. The Spanish government committed to achieving a target of 12 percent of primary energy from renewable energy by 2010 with an installed solar generating capacity of 3000 megawatts (MW). Spain is the fourth largest manufacturer in the world of solar power technology and exports 80 percent of this output to Germany. Spain added a record 2.6 GW of solar power in 2008, increasing capacity to 3.5 GW. Total solar power in Spain was 4 GW by the end of 2010 and solar energy produced 6.9 terawatt-hours (TW·h), covering 2.7% of the electricity demand in 2010.
Through a ministerial ruling in March 2004, the Spanish government removed economic barriers to the connection of renewable energy technologies to the electricity grid. The Royal Decree 436/2004 equalized conditions for large-scale solar thermal and photovoltaic plants and guaranteed feed-in tariffs. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the Spanish government drastically cut its subsidies for solar power and capped future increases in capacity at 500 MW per year, with effects upon the industry worldwide.
In 2013 May, CSun factory established and has a capacity of 300 MWatts. Some industrial establishments have been continuing on.
At the end of 2011, there were 230,000 solar power projects in the United Kingdom, with a total installed generating capacity of 750 megawatts (MW). By February 2012 the installed capacity had reached 1,000 MW. Solar power use has increased very rapidly in recent years, albeit from a small base, as a result of reductions in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels, and the introduction of a Feed-in tariff (FIT) subsidy in April 2010. In 2012, the government said that 4 million homes across the UK will be powered by the sun within eight years, representing 22,000 MW of installed solar power capacity by 2020.
Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant near Sarnia, Ontario, was in September 2010 the world's largest photovoltaic plant with an installed capacity of 80 MWp. until surpassed by plants in China and India. The plant covers 950 acres (380 ha) and contains about 966,000 square metres (96.6 ha), which is about 1.3 million thin film panels. The expected annual energy yield is about 120,000 MW·h, which if produced in a coal-fired plant would require emission of 39,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Canada has many regions that are sparsely populated and difficult to access, but also does not have optimal access to sunlight given the high latitudes of much of the country. Photovoltaic cells are increasingly used as standalone units, mostly as off-grid distributed electricity generation to power remote homes, telecommunications equipment, oil and pipeline monitoring stations and navigational devices. The Canadian PV market has grown quickly and Canadian companies make solar modules, controls, specialized water pumps, high efficiency refrigerators and solar lighting systems. Ontario has subsidized solar power energy to promote its growth.
One of the most important uses for PV cells is in northern communities, many of which depend on high-cost diesel fuel to generate electricity. Since the 1970s, the federal government and industry has encouraged the development of solar technologies for these communities. Some of these efforts have focused on the use of hybrid systems that provide power 24 hours a day, using solar power when sunlight is available, in combination with another energy source.
Mexico is already the greatest solar energy producer in Latin America and it is planning a solar trough based plant with 30 MW which will use a combined cycle gas turbine about 400 MW to provide electricity to the city of Agua Prieta, Sonora. To date, the World Bank has given US$50 million to finance this project.
Honduras in Central America is pushing through with solar water heating and solar panels, despite little or no help from the government. Although these systems represent a high cost to Central American households, companies like NRGEA are using private capital to finance the purchase of these systems to open up the market of renewables.
Solar power in the United States includes utility-scale solar power plants as well as local distributed generation, mostly from rooftop photovoltaics. In mid-2013, the U.S. passed 10 GW of installed photovoltaic capacity with an additional 0.5 GW of concentrated solar power.
The United States conducted much early research in photovoltaics and concentrated solar power. The U.S. is among the top countries in the world in electricity generated by the Sun and several of the world's largest utility-scale installations are located in the desert Southwest. The oldest solar power plant in the world is the 354 MW SEGS thermal power plant, in California. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a solar thermal power project in the California Mojave Desert, 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Las Vegas, with a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). The 280 MW Solana Generating Station is a solar power plant near Gila Bend, Arizona, about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Phoenix, completed in 2013. When commissioned it was the largest parabolic trough plant in the world and the first U.S. solar plant with molten salt thermal energy storage.
There are plans to build many other large solar plants in the United States. Many states have set individual renewable energy goals with solar power being included in various proportions. Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring California's utilities to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the end of 2020. A total of 4,324 MW of utility scale solar power plants are under construction and an additional 25,926 MW are under development, with 19,060 MW under construction or development in California. In the twelve months through December 2013, utility scale solar power generated 9.25 million megawatt-hours, 0.23% of total US electricity.
The largest solar power station in Australia is the 10 MWp (megawatts, peak) Greenough River Solar Farm near Geraldton, Western Australia. Other significant solar arrays include the 220 kWp array on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands in South Australia, the 200kWp array at Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne and the 160 kWp array at Kogarah Town Square in Sydney.
A 30 MWe (megawatts, electrical) solar thermal `coal saver' system is currently under construction at Liddell power station by Macquarie Generation and Solar Heat and Power. The system used `compact linear Fresnel reflector' technology developed in Australia. It will provide solar-powered steam to the 600 MW black coal power station's boiler feedwater heater. The project is funded by Macquarie Generation in order to meet its requirements under the Australian Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) scheme.
Solar power in New Zealand currently only generates 0.1 percent of New Zealand’s electricity since more emphasis has been placed on hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind power in New Zealand's push for renewable energy. Solar power systems were installed in 42 schools in New Zealand in the Schoolgen program, a program developed by Genesis Energy to educate students in solar power. Each participating school has a 2kW solar panel. Between February 2007 and 29 December 29, 2012, 395.714 MWh were produced.
In 2010, New Zealand's largest thin film solar array was the 20kW array installed at Hubbard Foods A 21.6kW photovoltaic array was installed in Queenstown in 2009. In April 2012, New Zealand's largest solar power plant was the 68.4 kW array installed to meet 70% of the electricity needs of South Auckland Forging Engineering Ltd, which is expected to pay for itself in eight to nine years.
In 2014, a 100 MW photovoltaic plant located near Copiapó in the Atacama Desert was inaugurated. It was developed by Amanecer Solar CAP, and is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere until a 103 MW thin-film solar PV plant will finish construction in Australia in 2015.
There is no oil on Israeli land and the country's tenuous relations with its oil-rich neighbors (see Arab–Israeli conflict) has made the search for a stable source of energy a national priority. So Israel has embraced solar energy. Israeli innovation and research has advanced solar technology to a degree that it is almost cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Its abundant sun made the country a natural location for the promising technology. The high amount of sunshine received by the Negev Desert every year has spurred an internationally renowned solar research and development industry, with Harry Tabor and David Faiman of the National Solar Energy Center two of its more prominent members. At the end of 2008 a feed-in tariff scheme was approved, which immediately put in motion the building of many residential and commercial solar energy power station projects.
The Saudi agency in charge of developing the nations renewable energy sector, Ka-care, announced in May 2012 that the nation would install 41 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2032. It is projected to be composed of 25 gigawatts of solar thermal, and 16 gigawatts of photovoltaics. At the time of this announcement, Saudi Arabia had only 0.003 gigawatts of installed solar energy capacity.
Below is the summary of installed photovoltaic and more detailed data for some countries.
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