New reports from SolarPower Europe show that solar power had a very good year last year. Worldwide, installed solar power capacity grew by an amazing 50 percent in 2016, with a the largest growth occurring in the U.S. and China.
The total amount of solar capacity added last year was more than 76 gigawatts (GW), while 2015 saw 50 GW installed. The total global solar power capacity is now about 305 GW, a major leap from the 50 GW installed worldwide a mere 7 years ago.
The U.S. and China both doubled the amount of solar power they added in 2015, leading all other countries in solar growth. China added 34.2 GW and the U.S. added 14 GW. Europe, however, saw a 20 percent downturn in growth compared to the previous year, but there was still progress. Europe has now passed its goal of 100 GW of installed power, reaching 104 GW.
The UK led Europe with almost 30 percent growth, but the pace of growth has stalled there compared to past years thanks to the removal of subsidies and incentives for residential solar installations and solar farms.
“We need to build a major industrial project around solar and renewables. To start with, increasing the 2030 renewable energy target to at least 35% [up from 27%] will send a strong signal that Europe is back in the solar business,” said Alexandre Roesch, policy director at SolarPower Europe, to The Guardian.
Asia is still adding solar power aggressively though. China made up half of all solar power added in 2016 and Asia as a whole accounted for two-thirds of the total.
While all of this is good news, we still have a long way to go. Solar still makes up a small percentage of the energy mix of most countries. According to SolarPower Europe, solar meets on average about 4 percent of energy demand across Europe. In the U.S., solar only makes up about 1 percent of the energy mix.