Solar energy has a big part to play in reducing future carbon emissions and ensuring a sustainable energy future. It can be used for heating, cooling, lighting, electrical power, transportation and even environmental clean-up. The global average solar radiation, per m2 and per year, can produce the same amount of energy as a barrel of oil, 200 kg of coal, or 140 m3 of natural gas.

Global installed capacity for solar-powered electricity has seen an exponential growth, reaching around 227 GWe at the end of 2015. It produced 1% of all electricity used globally. Germany has led PV capacity installations over last decade and continues as a leader followed by China, Japan, Italy and the United States. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) remains with very limited capacity at 4 GW today.

The two main types of solar energy technologies are photovoltaic and thermal collectors. Photovoltaic collectors convert solar radiation directly into electricity, without the use of any heat engine, and are increasingly popular in building integration purposes (such as using photovoltaic tiles as roof shingles) as well as for small- and large-scale devices, from watches to satellites. Solar thermal collectors can be used for domestic heating and hot water, but large solar collection plants can also be used for industrial heat purposes or for electricity generation based on the same mechanisms as fossil fuels. It is also possible to utilise solar energy for desalination, distillation and detoxification of water supplies, an increasingly important use.

The solar energy obtained directly from the Sun’s rays is termed solar radiation. The amount of solar energy incident upon a surface per unit area and unit time is termed solar irradiance, or insolation.

Solar data on installed capacity (MW) and annual output (GWh) is sourced from the International Renewable Energy Agency (2016) and represents the values at the end of year 2015.

Global Solar Installed Capacity

Solar Installed Capacity227GW

Solar Installed Capacity by region

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Solar Installed Capacity by region

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