New Global Solar Capacity Outpaced Wind in 2016, IRENA Says

Last year marked the first time since 2013 that solar energy growth outpaced wind energy, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Solar saw a record 71 GW of new capacity in 2016, while wind increased by 51 GW.

Global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 161 GW in 2016, making the strongest year ever for new capacity additions and bringing the global total capacity to 2,006 GW, according to the report Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017.

“We are witnessing an energy transformation taking hold around the world, and this is reflected in another year of record breaking additions in new renewable energy capacity,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin said in a March 30 statement. “This growth in deployment emphasizes the increasingly strong business case for renewables, which also have multiple socio-economic benefits in terms of fueling economic growth, creating jobs and improving human welfare and the environment.”

Asia accounted for 58 percent of new renewable additions in 2016, according to the data, giving it a total of 812 GW or roughly 41 percent of the global capacity. Asia was also the fastest growing region, with a 13.1 percent increase in renewable capacity. Africa installed 4.1 GW of new capacity in 2016, twice as much as 2015.

The report for the first time included data for off-grid renewables, which reached 2,800 MW at the end of last year, serving approximately 300 million people. Roughly 40 percent of off-grid electricity was provided by solar energy and 10 percent from hydropower, IRENA said. The majority of the remainder came from bioenergy.

Highlights by Technology

Hydropower: In 2016, about half of new hydro capacity was installed in Brazil and China (14.6 GW in total). Other countries with major hydro expansion (over 1 GW) included: Canada, Ecuador, Ethiopia and India.

Wind energy: Almost three-quarters of new wind energy capacity was installed last year in just four countries: China (+19 GW); U.S. (+9 GW); Germany (+5 GW); and India (+4 GW). Brazil continued to show strong growth, with an increase of 2 GW in 2016.

Bioenergy: The majority of bioenergy capacity expansion occurred in Asia last year (+5.9 GW), and Asia is fast approaching Europe in terms of its share of global bioenergy capacity (32 percent compared to 34 percent in Europe). Europe (+1.3 GW) and South America (+0.9 GW) were the other two regions where bioenergy capacity expanded significantly.

Solar energy: Asia saw the most growth in solar capacity last year, with capacity of 139 GW (+50 GW). Almost half of all new solar capacity was installed in China in 2016 (+34 GW). Other countries with significant expansion included: U.S. (+11 GW); Japan (+8 GW) and India (+4 GW). Capacity in Europe expanded by 5 GW to reach 104 GW, with most expansion occurring in Germany and the U.K.

Geothermal energy: Geothermal power capacity increased by 780 MW in 2016, with expansions in Kenya (+485 MW), Turkey (+150 MW), Indonesia (+95 MW) and Italy (+55 MW).

Lead image credit: Masahiko OHKUBO | Flickr

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