A global renewable energies boom 1

Click image to download full pdf reportThanks to GreenUnivers, a great French blog on green business, I came across the latest report from the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). It presents various figures worth mentioning.

Between 2004 and 2008, solar PV capacity increased sixfold to more than 16 GW, wind power capacity increased 250 percent to 121 GW, and total power capacity from new renewables increased 75 percent to 280 GW (excluding large hydro).

Investments in this sector also grew sixfold between 2004 and 2008 to reach $120 billion (82 billion euros). All this is very encouraging.

Here are some extracts of the executive summary (page 8):

During the same period, solar heating capacity doubled to 145 gigawatts-thermal (GWth).

(…) Annual percentage gains for 2008 were even more dramatic. Wind power grew by 29 percent and grid-tied solar PV by 70 percent. The capacity of utility-scale solar PV plants (larger than 200 kilowatts) tripled during 2008, to 3 GW. Solar hot water grew by 15 percent.

(…) Many leadership changes and milestones in renewable energy markets and policy took place in 2008. The United States became the leader in new capacity investment with $24 billion invested, or 20 percent of global total investment. The United States also led in added and total wind power capacity, surpassing long-time wind power leader Germany.

Spain added 2.6 GW of solar PV, representing a full half of global grid-tied installations and a fivefold increase over Spain’s 2007 additions. China doubled its wind power capacity for the fifth year in a row, moving into fourth place worldwide.

Another significant milestone was that for the first time, both the United States and the European Union added more power capacity from renewables than from conventional sources (including gas, coal, oil, and nuclear).

Renewable energy industries boomed during most of 2008. Global solar PV production increased by 90 percent to 6.9 GW in 2008. China usurped Japan to become the new world leader in PV cell production and also experienced huge growth in its wind power industry, with many new companies producing wind turbines and components.

Globally, the wind industry continued to push turbine sizes higher, with models of 3 MW or larger becoming more widespread. The concentrating solar power (CSP) industry saw many entrants and new manufacturing facilities.

I would like to conclude this article with two graphs showing why we can talk about a boom. They represent the wind and solar PV existing capacity from 1996 to 2008. As you can see, we are nearing exponential growth during the past three years…

wind-2008-REN21 solar-2008-REN21

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