Solar panels, once a rare sighting, have popped up all over the world in recent years, spurred by government incentives and falling prices. And now, global solar capacity has tipped past the 100 gigawatt-mark.
The world's cumulative solar photovoltaic electricity capacity achieved just over 101 GW in 2012, according to preliminary figures released this week by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association. The world's solar capacity can generate as much electricity in a year as 16 coal power plants or nuclear reactors of 1 GW each.
In 2012, an estimated 30 GW of solar capacity was connected to the grid, roughly the same amount as in 2011. Final results for the year will be published in May, in EPIA's annual Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2013-2017.
The preliminary results of the report shows that growth isn't just concentrated in well-known solar regions, such as Germany. This year, there was a shift towards a more global PV market, with 13 GW of PV installations occurring outside of Europe, compared to just under 8 GW in 2011. The top three non-European markets were China with at least 3.5 GW and possibly as much as 4.5 GW, the United States with 3.2 GW and Japan with 2.5 GW.