Solar photovoltaic energy production soars

  • PV leads the pack in renewable energies growth
  • If the climate change goals set in the Paris Agreement are met, it will be thanks to PV energy

2017 was truly the year in which the PV industry confirmed its importance across the world. The sector has been gradually gaining ground since the beginning, but last year there was a full-scale solar revolution. In recent weeks, the headlines in annual reports of the most important institutions involved in supporting energies have made it clear that “the growth of PV energy has outstripped all other renewables, nuclear energy and even fossil fuels”.
According to United Nations’ figures, 98 GW of solar energy was produced worldwide in 2017, a record for the PV sector, quite apart from comparisons with other energy sources. This figure is for last year’s production only. But if we look at its performance over in the last decade, we see a massive upswing from the 10GW of all PV energy produced ten years ago, to the 402 GW produced today. It is even more remarkable if we bear in mind that nearly a quarter was generated in 2017 alone.

Photovoltaic tops nuclear power
Volumes of energy production using PV are already higher worldwide than nuclear energy, with the latter generating 11 GW last year (according to the same set of UN figures) and that has 393 GW of installed power, a figure which has been published in the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s latest reports. The UN, meanwhile, highlights that in 2017 other renewable sources brought a further 59 GW altogether to the energy mix, easily beating gas plant production (38 GW), coal (35 GW) and oil (3 GW).
According to the IEA, the enormous growth of solar PV power is down to the sector’s flexibility and capacity for innovation. The Agency also points to its versatility and modularity, since PV installations can adapt to multiple types of demand, providing solutions that stretch from private homes to macro-plants that can meet the electricity needs of large populations and geographical areas.
Added to this, the pace of technological progress enables us to see that the flexibility of the PV model will increase, and the downward trend in price, already a reality, will continue. In fact, forecasts by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) for 2020 put the cost of generating one KW/h in large solar plants at just three dollar-cents.
Other experts estimate that in 2018 energy production using PV will come to 113 GW, which would mark a new world record and ratify the sector’s unstoppable rise.

Paris Agreement on Climate Change
Even so, the IRENA points out that, despite the positive results from renewable energies, this growth will have to multiply six-fold in the next few years in order to reach the goals set in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
According to the figures provided by this organisation, in 2015 renewables accounted for just 18% of total energy consumption. However, to meet the target set in the Paris Agreement, energy production using renewables will need to account for vat least two thirds of the world’s energy consumption by 2050.