2013: More Solar Than Wind

on November 29, 2013 at 12:00 PM

President Obama Visits Largest Photovoltaic Plant In U.S. In Nevada

Solar poised to challenge wind’s historical dominance

According to a newly released report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), 2013 is expected to become the first year in which solar PVs beat wind in terms of megawatts of new installed capacity on a global level. It is a remarkable feat for solar energy, which is predicted to add 36.7 GW of new PV capacity vs. 35.5 GW for wind – 33.8 GW onshore plus 1.7GW offshore. In 2012, wind added 46.6 GW compared to 30.5 GW for solar PVs.

Data from NPD Solarbuzz indicates that over 9 GW of solar PVs will be installed globally in the 3rd Qtr 2013, a new record.

Screen shot 2013-11-26 at 1.12.11 PM

A slowdown in the world’s two largest wind markets, China and the US, is responsible for the PVs taking the lead. Moreover, BNEF predicts that after years of oversupply and depressed profits, both sectors may move back to profitability in 2013. “Cost cuts and a refocusing on profitable markets and business segments have bolstered the financial performance of wind turbine makers and the surviving solar manufacturers,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF, adding, “Stock market investors have been noticing this change, and clean energy shares have rebounded by 66% since their lows of July 2012.”

BNEF’s head solar analyst Jenny Chase sees the dramatic cost reductions, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China, are increasing the likelihood of further, strong growth in PV volumes despite reduced solar incentives in Europe and adjustments made elsewhere.

Screen shot 2013-11-26 at 1.13.29 PM

BNEF’s head of wind analysis, Justin Wu expects wind installations to shrink by as much as 25% in 2013, to their lowest level since 2008, due to projected slowdowns in the US and China caused by policy uncertainty. “However, falling technology costs, new markets and the growth of the offshore industry will ensure wind remains a leading renewable energy technology,” says Wu.

According to BNEF, onshore wind and PVs will contribute more or less equally to the world’s new electricity capacity additions between now and 2030. Wind is expected to account for 17% of the world’s new installed generation capacity by 2030 from 5% in 2012; the corresponding numbers for PVs are 16 and 2%. Global installed solar capacity.

Screen shot 2013-11-26 at 1.14.32 PM

Perry Sioshansi is the President of Menlo Energy Economics and Editor & Publisher of EEnergy Informer. He can be reached at [email protected].
His latest two books are Energy Efficiency: Towards the End of Demand Growth and Evolution of Global Electricity Markets, both published in 2013 by Elsevier. Further details & 30% discount available here