Chart: Solar installations set to break global, US records in 2023

Thanks to cheaper solar panels and favorable policy, expect to see a lot more broken solar records in the years to come.
By Eric Wesoff, Maria Virginia Olano

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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

The solar industry is having yet another record-setting growth year, globally and in the U.S. A perfect storm of policy, incentives and still-plummeting costs has made solar the clear choice for new generation capacity worldwide.

Research firm BloombergNEF expects global solar installations to rise by 56 percent in 2023, according to a September report.

While solar deployments in the U.S., South America and the EU are growing fast, China continues to lead the way — it’s expected to account for 50 percent of new global solar PV projects by 2024.

But China’s leadership extends beyond brand-new projects: Its installed capacity is expected to cross the 500-gigawatt mark by the end of 2023 and is expected to double to 1 terawatt by the end of 2026, according to recent data from Rystad.

Meanwhile, total U.S. installed solar capacity is nearly 160 gigawatts today and will rise to about 209 gigawatts in 2026, or around 11 percent of the global total, according to Rystad. Much of that increase will stem from the Inflation Reduction Act’s generous incentives.

Although a bit of a laggard compared to China, the U.S. solar industry is expected to add a record 32 gigawatts of new capacity this year, a 52 percent increase from 2022, according to a separate report released by the Solar Energy Industry Association and analyst firm Wood Mackenzie.

The trends driving this growth are set to continue. The price of standard solar modules hit an all-time low of 16.5 cents per watt in August, and BloombergNEF expects it to fall further by year’s end. The United States doesn’t get the full benefit of these low prices because of the tariffs it imposes on Chinese-made solar panels, but the rest of the world does.

Given the still-plummeting costs of solar and America’s IRA, this record growth looks to become an annual tradition both globally and in the U.S. — trade wars and tariffs notwithstanding.

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Eric Wesoff is the editorial director at Canary Media.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.