Europe has historically been a long way ahead of the USA, with over 45GW peak capacity as of 2011 compared to the USA’s figure of 2.6GW. Last week, the Solar Power Generation USA conference was held in Las Vegas, and Shayle Kann, director of research at Green Tech Media declared that the “U.S. solar market is poised for growth in 2012”, and that it will be in the top two leading world markets for solar in the next two years.
Where will this growth come from for the USA? California saw the greatest amount of solar capacity installed over 2011, with New Jersey in second place and Pennsylvania lagging some way behind in third. These increases were a mixture of commercial and domestic sized systems.
For 2012, a lot of the USA’s growth looks to come from large scale solar projects. For example, National Solar Power are building their 3rd PV project in Florida – a gigantic solar farm of 100MW. During the President’s State of the Union address at the end of January, he announced that federal land would be used for solar development – the Department of Interior have proposed Solar Energy Zones across the south west states. This move has widely been supported, both from within the solar industry and from environmental advocates around the world.
A recent study by California’s Research and Policy Center concluded that even residential solar in California could reach grid parity by 2015. This is because the falling price of solar panels and the increasing number of installers means that competition has driven down the cost per watt, to an estimated $5.25 per watt installed by 2015.
However, Europe isn’t being lazy on the solar front either! The Desertec project is currently well underway – it is a very large solar farm being constructed in the Sahara. The aim of this project is to meet 15% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050. Tunisia has just announced that it is building a 2,000MW solar power plant, six times the size of the world’s current largest solar farm. The Desertec project already includes a 500MW solar power plant in Morocco that is current under construction, at a cost of $2.8 billion, and an expected date to start producing electricity in 2014.
Excitingly, it seems that both the USA and Europe are continuing to push hard with solar power. Whilst some of Europe’s latest projects are extremely large, they are still very much in a planning phase. The USA is starting to make some very large leaps forward, and even if it doesn’t catch up to Europe in the next few years, it’s important to remember that solar power is always a matter of large, long-term investment – a very large amount of funding is required up front, and so getting such projects as the Florida plan into action bodes well for the future of renewable energy generation. As the Desertec website reminds us – by 2050, we will need three Earth’s to support mankind if we don’t increase our renewable energy production, and if the Sahara were covered in solar panels, it would meet our annual energy needs in just six hours.
Article Written by James Hawkins, from a UK energy efficiency company, coming shortly – a similar service for james>