We are constantly inundated with projections, estimates, and forecasts of our future global and photovoltaic (PV) energy requirements. How much energy will we need by 2050? How much of our energy should come from PV? How much PV capacity can we install by 2020? Will that be enough?

I thought it would be interesting to see how we’ve done on our last decade of projections for global PV installations. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) is among various organizations that project and report the status of the PV market. From a series of EPIA’s Solar Generation (SG) reports ranging from SG1 (2001) to SG6 (2011) I looked at year-over-year projections for total global installed PV capacity, and plotted them alongside the actual installed values (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 for Ryan Tucker's blog

Figure 1 Cumulative installed photovoltaic capacity values and estimates from several EPIA reports.

It turns out that we’ve consistently beat the projections by large margins. In fact, the 2010 installed value (>39 GW) is more than a factor of three higher than the 2001 projections for that year (~13 GW). We can see from the plot in logarithmic scale that the installed capacity keeps jumping off of the exponential prediction curves.

The industry has made well on its promises. We must realize that the solar industry is in an enormous state of growth, but only because we are so far behind. This exponential growth is not sustainable for the industry. Certainly there has been amazing growth in the past decade, and we hope that this trend will continue for the following decade or two. Beyond that, let’s just hope that the total capacity is a significant portion of the global energy supply, and the industry can happily transition into a more steady growth state. In the meantime, I’m happy to take every megawatt of PV that we can get!


Ryan Tucker

-Ryan Tucker

Ph.D Candidate, Year 4

Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Alberta