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Global solar capacity up 54 per cent in 2011

16th Jan 2012

Countries around the world are continuing to harness the energy of the sun, with global solar capacity increasing by more than half last year.

According to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), solar panel installations rose to between 26.5 and 29.4 gigawatts last year - up from 18.2 gigawatts in 2010.

Spending on solar projects was almost double that of wind power for the year, jumping by 36 per cent to $136.6 billion.

While wind power investment reached $74.9 million, solar represented almost half of all renewable energy investment worldwide last year according to BNEF.

Chief executive of BNEF Michael Liebreich believes that the 2011 results are quite an achievement - particularly with the 50 per cent reduction in the price of solar panels.

"The cost of PV technology has fallen, but the volume of PV sold has increased by a much greater factor as it approached competitiveness with other sources of power," he said (January 13).

"Overall, 2011 was a far better year for the clean energy industry than the press coverage would lead one to believe. Remember that for every equipment company operating at thin or negative margins, there is an installer who is getting a good deal."

While global investment in clean energy reached an overall high of $260 billion, Australia's investment in renewable resources also increased significantly, rising by 11 per cent to reach $4.7 billion - boosted by the continuing installation of rooftop solar panel systems.

BNEF lead clean energy analyst in Australia Kobad Bhavnagri told the Sydney Morning Herald that growth had occurred despite the global financial crisis and the passing of the federal government's carbon tax.

"Investment keeps growing, which reflects the world view of many major economists that clean energy is going to be the major industrial driver of economic growth this century,'' he said (January 14).

According to Mr Bhavnagri, investment in Australia is expected to rise to $6.8 billion next year.

The 2020 renewable sources target - which aims to have 20 per cent of energy supply generated by solar, wind and geothermal infrastructure - is also on track, with $45 billion expected to be invested before the deadline.

In 2011, the US invested more than any other country, reporting a total of $55.9 billion - up 33 per cent. China also experienced a one per cent increase to reach a total of $47.4 billion.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar correspondent

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