Ranking the top 15 nations for solar energy capacity

Solar photovoltaics is set to be the number one technology deployed across the globe for energy production, increasing the world’s installed capacity by 75% through 2027, adding 2,400 GW over the period, said the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA report said that renewable energy expansion is 90% of the planned additions worldwide, and solar accounts for over 60% of all forecast renewable capacity expansion, setting records for annual additions every year through 2027. Cumulative PV capacity nearly triples in the IEA forecast, growing by almost 1,500 GW, and exceeding natural gas by 2026 and coal by 2027.

Cost declines and the desire to boost national energy security and climate resilience are driving widespread adoption. In the U.S., the cost of utility-scale PV fixed tilt was $4.75 per Watt in 2010, and it declined to $0.94 per Watt by 2020.

The world will need 5.2TW of solar power generation capacity by 2030, and 14TW by mid century, to have any chance of limiting global average temperature rises this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius, said the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Below is the list of the 15 largest producers of solar energy today, ranked in terms of operational capacity as reported in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy:

15) Ukraine – 8.06 GW

14) Brazil – 13.05 GW

13) Spain – 13.65 GW

12) United Kingdom – 13.69 GW

11) Netherlands – 14.25 GW

10) France – 14.71 GW

9) Vietnam – 16.66 GW

8) South Korea – 18.16 GW

7) Australia – 19.07 GW

6) Italy – 22.69 GW

5) India – 49.34 GW

4) Germany – 58.6 GW

3) Japan – 74.19 GW

2) United States – 93.71 GW

1) China – 306.4 GW

The world will have to install 450GW of new solar capacity each year – most of it utility scale – for the rest of this decade, with China and India to lead Asia to a roughly half share of the world’s installed PV capacity in 2030, estimated IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook report.

Elsewhere, North America will need to install 90GW per year of solar to claim a 14% share of the world’s operating panels at the end of the decade, and Europe’s 19% slice of the pie will require 55GW of annual solar capacity additions.

Image: IEA

The world will have to start devoting $5.7 trillion per year to the energy transition for the rest of the decade to reach these targets, said Irena. That can be feasible if the $700 billion per year channeled into fossil fuels is immediately diverted to the transition, the publication stated. Public investment in the transition will have to immediately double, too, said IRENA, to attract the remaining money needed from the private sector, which would bear most of the financial burden.

Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA said, “Progress across all energy uses has been woefully inadequate.”

IRENA said policymakers also need to usher in sufficient international grid connections and flexibility; training; utility scale batteries; electricity demand-side management; digital tools; peer-to-peer power trading; community ownership of renewables; time-of-use energy tariffs; and net billing systems.

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Sustainable power is set to become a ubiquitous part of our future through their reliable low-carbon properties enabling consumers to pay less for electricity and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Currently, there are four major sources of renewable energy recognized by the U.S Energy Information Administration as being the main sustainable power producers: biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar.


By using photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into energy, solar power makes the most of the Sun’s daily cycle to harvest energy efficiently. A cheap and easy way of providing electricity, solar power is one of the largest forms of sustainable energy available, producing 570 TWh globally in 2018 and on track to expand its capacity up to 50% by 2024. Solar energy has been used to lead an energy transition away from fossil fuels, electrifying rural communities and driving sustainable development. 

Low operation costs, low carbon emissions, efficient power production and the rise of batteries has made solar energy a force for utilities companies – even the most reticent to embrace renewables. On top of the utilities sector, the aviation industry has also begun to innovate by using solar energy as a means to reduce their carbon footprint. Investment in solar has continued to increase, with nations like China taking the lead in implementing large-scale solar projects. 

This source of energy is becoming one of the most affordable and accessible, owing to years of investment and development within the solar industry. Along with continued innovation within the field of lithium-ion batteries, solar power has become a major source of employment and electrification globally.


Hydropower is one of the oldest forms of sustainable energy in use, dating back several thousand years, and it has grown to encompass several forms of water-based power generation. The most recognizable form of hydropower comes in the form of dams like the Hoover (USA) or Three Gorges (China), where they produce electricity by letting water flow through its generators downstream. Responsible for 16% of total global energy production, hydropower is currently the world’s largest source of sustainable energy.

Hydropower refers to the use of water’s movement as a medium for energy generation. Including dams, tidal and wave-power, hydroelectricity’s wide range of sources reflect its versatility and ability to be used almost everywhere. A dominant form of sustainable power, hydropower was responsible for 4,200 TWh of energy production in 2018. Featured in the electrical grid of a vast range of countries, hydropower is one of the most mainstream forms of sustainable energy found on the current energy market.

Hydroelectric dams are playing a leading role in Costa Rica’s ability to run almost exclusively on renewable energy while innovation in wave power in Orkney has furthered research in sustainable development. Capable of storing energy through pumped storage facilities, hydropower provides both alternative energy and storage options. Along with other forms of sustainable energy, hydro is expected to increase its capacity and help lead a transition away from fossil fuels.

Wind Power:

Another form of sustainable energy that has been used for millennia, windmills have evolved from grinding grain and pumping water to become wind turbines capable of harnessing large amounts of energy. The large blades that make up the turbine are driven by the wind and power the generator within it to produce energy. One of the fastest growing forms of renewable energy, wind farms can be installed at sea and on land, and have played a major part in the global transition away from fossil fuels.

A form of sustainable energy that has continued to develop and innovate, wind power has gained popularity with utility companies due to its cost-efficient power generation. Installed in areas exposed to high amounts of wind, turbines work by using their large blades to capture the wind’s power and use it to turn a generator, creating energy. In recent years, wind power capacity has greatly increased in Europe, the United States and China, with close to 600MW of installed capacity reported in 2018 – and calls to triple that capacity by 2030.

Able to be installed offshore as well as on land, wind turbines have the ability to generate high amounts of power for coastal communities. New developments in battery storage have reduced the intermittency issues facing wind power, making it one of many sustainable energy options now capable of powering energy grids with more consistency. 


Geothermal energy harnesses the heat generated naturally within the Earth and carried to the surface in the form of steam, which geothermal power plants generate electricity from via drilled wells. Since its first iteration in 1913, geothermal power plants and the technology behind them has been refined and optimized to become an integral part of the power grids of several nations including Iceland, El Salvador and New Zealand.

Used as a means of power and heating for thousands of years, geothermal energy is one of the oldest forms of power available to us. Sourced from the natural heat emanating from the planet’s core, geothermal energy is responsible for a large share of the energy production of countries such as Iceland, Kenya and New Zealand. After the signatories of the Paris Agreement pledged to reduce global carbon emissions, geothermal has been proposed as a reliable form of sustainable energy for a range of nations globally.

With 14,900MW of installed capacity worldwide, geothermal energy is expected to continue its growth, with certain projections believing it could shoulder up to 3.5% of global electricity demand by 2050. As it relies on the Earth’s core temperature for energy, geothermal does not have intermittency issues, but requires more infrastructure to ensure power generation, while questions have been raised about its environmental impacts


A mix of both traditional and modern energy techniques, bioenergy is derived from a vast array of biological materials such as food waste or wood pellets and comes in many shapes and forms. Through either combustion of biological materials to provide energy, or liquid biofuels to power vehicles, bioenergy has been a cornerstone of sustainable development.

Popular in countries with rapidly power demand and growing waste and agricultural sectors, bioenergy has the versatility to provide for different energy needs. As an energy provider, it has a global installed capacity of 130GW, while also helping power vehicles worldwide. Growth in the Pacific and across Africa has seen the use of bioenergy increase steadily as a means to transition away from fossil fuels.

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