First off, any list that claims “the biggest” of anything is up for speculation unless you’re talking about the award-winning hog at the local 4-H contest. That said 2013 has been a great year for solar with some dynamic shifts in the U.S. and the world. So here are some of the biggest solar energy news stories to cap off a great year in almost no particular order.
Perhaps the biggest solar story of 2013 is the continued, anticipated growth of solar into 2014. Earlier in December numerous analysts and ratings services anticipated that demand for new photovoltaic solar power alone could reach up to 49 gigawatts in 2014. That’s according to a recent forecast by NPD Solarbuzz, the most bullish. NPD anticipated that growth would be 30 percent higher than the more than the 36 gigawatts installed in 2012. Other companies have forecast up to 43 gigawatts of installed solar by the end of 2014.
This next one goes hand in hand with the first. There’s a dramatic shift in where solar power is going. For the past decade or so the solar market has been dominated by Europe, and within Europe, Germany and to a lesser extent Italy and Spain. That’s changed. In 2014 the solar market will be led by installations in China, Japan and the U.S. While the U.S. is anticipated to install more than 5 gigawatts of solar in 2014, even bigger is China, which is anticipated to install more than 12 gigawatts of solar in 2014.
In 2013 fully five countries have surpassed the 10 gigawatts of PV threshold. With the U.S. joining the ranks of Germany, Italy, China, and Japan. Meanwhile the whole world surpassed 100 gigawatts of installed solar PV power. And with more than 40 gigawatts expected to come online in 2014. The world could surpass the 200 gigawatt level as soon as 2016 if the trends continue—as they’re expected to.
This will be boosted as the cost of solar continues to come into parity—price equality—with other energy sources. And it’s already happening. Earlier in 2013 then Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that solar power started to come into parity Italy and Spain in 2012 and he projected that it would come into parity in Brazil in 2013. Meanwhile Deutsche Bank said India, China and the U.S. were also closing ion on parity in more places in 2013.
Thus far most of these have focussed on the PV aspect of solar. But 2013 also saw some significant progress for concentrating solar power (CSP), too. Perhaps the most significant event in that spectrum of solar power was the completion and commissioning of Abengoa Solar’s 280 megawatt Solana solar thermal trough CSP system with thermal energy storage. When it came online in October it was the world’s largest CSP system and the largest solar system with energy storage allowing it produce clean energy after dark.
Big projects make headlines but smaller, rooftop scaled solar projects made headlines in 2013, too. At least the policies surrounding them did. In the U.S. utilities in a number of states where rooftop solar is growing increasingly popular chief among them Arizona, California and Colorado net-metering policies and reimbursements for customer-generated solar energy have come under fire from utilities. The utilities are increasingly concerned that distributed generation is challenging their traditional business models and charge that other consumers are paying for solar customers. Solar advocates and solar installers have come out against these efforts in droves, protesting at utility headquarters, state capitols and utility commissions. Thus far proposed cuts and reductions to net-metering hasn’t been disastrous to the solar industry in these states however.
In other states, solar is set to boom even more. Perhaps the best example of this is Massachusetts. The tiny eastern seaboard state reached 250 megawatts of solar earlier this year—that’s four years earlier than planned. While the state could have rested on those laurels, it didn’t. In May Gov. Deval Patrick (D) announced that the state’s new solar goal would be 1.6 gigawatts by the end of the decade.
These are just some of the amazing solar stories and revelations of 2013. Let us know if there’s something we missed at SolarReviews.Tweet