Worldwide electric capacity of solar power by technology. Total of 142 GW in 2013.
Solar PV – Nellis Solar Power Plant at Nellis Air Force Base in the USA. These panels track the sun in one axis.
Satellite image of one of the world’s largest PV power plants, the Topaz Solar Farm, taken in 2015
CSP-Solar thermal – The 150-megawatt Andasol Solar Power Station is a commercial concentrated solar thermal power plant, located in Andalusia, Spain. The power plant uses tanks of molten salt to store solar energy so that it can continue generating electricity even when the sun is not shining.
Canal Solar Power Project – a canal-top solar plant in Kadi, India
Many industrialized nations have installed significant solar power capacity into their electrical grids to supplement or provide an alternative to conventional energy sources while an increasing number of less developed nations have turned to solar to reduce dependence on expensive imported fuels. Long distance transmission allows remote renewable energy resources to displace fossil fuel consumption. Solar power plants use one of two technologies:
•Photovoltaic (PV) systems use solar panels, either on rooftops or in ground-mounted solar farms, converting sunlight directly into electric power.
•Concentrated solar power (CSP, also known as “concentrated solar thermal”) plants use solar thermal energy to make steam, that is thereafter converted into electricity by a turbine.
Worldwide growth of photovoltaics is extremely dynamic and varies strongly by country. By the end of 2014, cumulative photovoltaic capacity increased by more than 40 gigawatt (GW) and reached at least 178 GW, sufficient to supply 1 percent of the world’s totalelectricity consumption of currently 18,400 TWh. As in the year before, the top installers of 2014 were China, followed by Japan and theUnited States, while the United Kingdom emerged as new European leader ahead of Germany and France. Germany remains for one more year the world’s largest producer of solar power with an overall installed capacity of 38.2 GW. The newcomers of the year were Chile and South Africa, which entered straight into the world’s Top 10 ranking of added capacity. There are now 20 countries around the world with a cumulative PV capacity of more than one gigawatt. Thailand, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, all crossed the one gigawatt-mark in 2014. The available solar PV capacity in Italy, Germany and Greece is now sufficient to supply between 7% and 8% of their respective domestic electricity consumption.
After an almost two decade long hiatus, deployment of CSP resumed in 2007, with significant growth only in the most recent years. However, the design for several new projects is being changed to cheaper photovoltaics. Mostoperational CSP stations are located in Spain and the United States, while large solar farms using photovoltaics are being constructed in an expanding list of geographic regions. As of January 2015, the largest solar power plants in the world are:
•for PV, the 550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm and 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm, both located in southern California; and
•for CSP, the 377 MW Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, located in California’s Mojave Desert.
Other large CSP facilities include the 354 megawatt (MW) Solar Energy Generating Systems power installation in the USA,Solnova Solar Power Station (Spain, 150 MW), Andasol Solar Power Station (Spain, 150 MW) and the first part of Shams solar power station (United Arab Emirates, 100 MW). Other large PV power stations include the 320 MW Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China, the 345 MW Charanka Solar Park in India, and the 166 MW Solarpark Meuro in Germany.