More than 140 gigawatts of solar and wind generation capacity were added globally last year as solar PV consolidated its role as the growth engine of the renewables market, new figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency show.
Among renewable technologies, wind remains second only to hydropower in its installed base, with 564 gigawatts in operation compared to solar’s 480 gigawatts, IRENA said.
But the solar market is now regularly lapping wind on the global stage, with solar installations hitting a record 94 gigawatts last year, IRENA said, in spite of a policy-induced slowdown in the critical Chinese market.
The global wind market has been flat in recent years, holding steady around 50 gigawatts of new installations in 2018. However, growth is expected in the years ahead, and many corners of the global wind market are vibrant. Onshore wind has proven itself the lowest-cost option for new power generation in a growing number of markets around the world, including much of the central U.S., and developers are increasingly finding ways to build projects without subsidies.
But the biggest renewables market by far these days is solar. Analysts at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables believe the global solar market will crack the 100-gigawatt mark for the first time this year — a level the wind market has never come close to achieving. Costs continue to fall rapidly across the solar industry, setting the global market up for a rhythm of annual installations in the 115- to 120-gigawatt range in the early 2020s, Wood Mackenzie forecasts.
Wind and solar’s faster growth means that renewables are eating up a larger and larger share of the global market for new power plants, going from 25 percent of new capacity brought online in 2001 to 63 percent last year, a new record.