Investment in solar energy has increased rapidly over the past few years and between 2007 and 2011 the growth rate in the solar power industry was a staggering 70 per cent.
At the end of last year, it was estimated that the world’s solar capacity now stands at 62 gigawatts.
The increase in popularity and investment in solar panels can be related back to an increased awareness of the importance of renewable energies and the steadily falling cost of photovoltaics.
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre recently published a report documenting the status of photovoltaics throughout the world.
Entitled, the ‘2012 Photovoltaics Status Report’, the study highlighted the fact that in 2011, Europe was responsible for installing two-thirds of the world’s new solar panels.
Europe’s solar energy capacity now stands at around 52 gigawatts – enough energy to meet the entire demand of a country the size of Austria.
The report commented that Germany, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, France, Belgium and the UK are the leaders in installed PV capacity in Europe.
The Feed in Tariff, introduced in the UK 2010, saw around 55 megawatts of solar energy installed, bringing the total capacity to about 85 megawatts.
The falling price of solar
Writing in the foreword of the report, Arnulf Jager-Waldau, senior scientist for renewable energy at the Joint Research Centre, commented that the increase in solar panel installation was predominantly due to the drastic reduction in the cost of photovoltaics.
He said: “From 2008 to the second quarter of 2012, residential PV electricity system prices have decreased by almost 60 per cent in the most competitive markets, and in some markets, the cost of PV-generated electricity is already cheaper than residential electricity retail prices.
“Due to falling PV system prices and increasing electricity prices, the number of such markets is steadily increasing.”
In 2011, solar energy attracted 48.5 per cent of all new renewable energy investments or £79 billion.
Investments in distributed photovoltaic energy systems increased to over £44 billion.
These figures serve to highlight the global movement towards solar energy and solar panel installation.