The 100-gigawatt threshold
This week, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association announced that more than 100 gigawatts of photovoltaics is now installed worldwide, while the European Wind Energy Association says the EU now has 106 gigawatts of wind turbines hooked up.
Last week, EWEA announced (PDF) installation figures for wind power in the EU. Germany once again turned out to be the largest market with 2.44 gigawatts installed, followed by the UK at around 1.9 gigawatts. One salient difference between the two countries is that the UK installed 45 percent of its new capacity offshore, compared to only 3.3 percent in Germany.
The difference between onshore and offshore wind is crucial in terms of ownership and democratizing energy supply. Offshore wind farms are largely concentrated in the hands of a few large corporations, whereas onshore wind – at least in Germany – can go up in small community-owned wind farms. Ironically, for the Anglo world generally emphasizes cost, onshore wind is also much less expensive than offshore. But large corporations have succeeded in stirring up public opinion in the UK against local wind turbines, and the British did not sufficiently realize that they can own local turbines themselves.
As recently announced, wind power has been the largest source of electricity in Spain for the past few months, but the Spanish market only came in fourth in terms of new installations last year. Overall, the Spanish wind sector is not happy. This month, the Spanish government retroactively did away with bonus payments added to the country's feed-in tariffs; it is estimated that 80 percent of the market took advantage of the bonus option. Now, only the feed-in tariff is available, and it has been reduced from 8.37 cents per kilowatt-hour to 8.124 cents.
In similar news, EPIA now estimates (PDF) that "just over 101 gigawatts" has now been installed, and the solar power generated is equivalent to what 16 one-gigawatt nuclear or coal plants could produce in a year. Most installations still went up in Europe last year – 17 gigawatts, compared to 13 outside of Europe – but the market is expected to shift further away from Europe, which fell year-over-year by around six gigawatts from 23 gigawatts in 2011. China in particular is expected to boom at a rate of around 10 gigawatts per year up to 2015. (Craig Morris)