How Much Solar Energy Is Used Globally?

With the recent boom in the renewable energy industry, more and more people are interested in how much energy their local solar panels produce. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of money on equipment that’s only going to produce a certain amount of energy each month. So, how much solar energy is actually being used globally, and how is this amount compared to the amount of energy that was predicted to be produced by solar panels?

The Rise In Adoption

It’s fair to say that the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar energy, is increasing around the world. Countries like Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom have already largely replaced their energy needs with renewable sources. Indeed, in 2021 alone, more than 37 gigawatts of new solar power were installed around the world. That’s a new record high for solar power capacity installed in one year.

Renewable energy is also increasingly attractive to businesses. Large companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple have all committed to using only renewable energy sources in their supply chains. Similarly, international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank are encouraging countries to use more renewable energy sources. They see solar power and other renewable energy sources as a critical part of future energy plans.

The Growth Of Solar Energy Worldwide

While solar energy has been around for a while, its growth as a source of electricity has only recently been seen. In the past, solar power was mostly used for specialized applications, like powering spacecraft or satellites. However, in recent years, the growth in popularity of solar power has been dramatic. The following chart from Statista illustrates the growth of annual solar power capacity around the world between 2016 and 2025.

It’s clear that global solar power demand is set to increase by almost 3 times, from 17.3 gigawatts in 2016 to 47.2 gigawatts by 2025. That’s a lot of energy being generated by solar panels, and it’s clearly having a significant impact. In some countries, like Germany or Japan, the growth in solar power has even outpaced that of fossil fuels, such as oil and gas.

The Predicted Growth Of Solar Energy

The following chart from Statista illustrates just how much solar energy was expected to grow in the coming years. The predictions were made by industry analysts at Deloitte in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They considered key factors like market growth, pricing, and technology developments, among others.

The analysts predicted that by 2025, annual worldwide solar energy capacity would hit 105 gigawatts. That’s an increase of almost 60% from the 61.5 gigawatts that were installed in 2025.

So, what happened instead? Well, as mentioned above, global solar power capacity grew by over 37 gigawatts in 2021 alone. In the coming years, as more and more people look to install solar panels on their rooftops to generate their own energy, this trend is only going to continue.

How Is Solar Energy Used?

Now that you know just how much energy is being generated by solar power, let’s examine how this energy is being used. First off, let’s look at the market for solar power around the world. As we’ve established, the demand for solar energy is growing, and industries like glass, cement, and paint are some of the key sectors that stand to benefit from this trend.

Based on the 2017 market research report from the United Kingdom’s Photovoltaic Installations and Systems Market Review, the global market for solar power was valued at US$16.9 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow to $26.1billion by 2023.

The report, which analyzed the global market for solar power, noted that the major growth in the market has come from Asia Pacific, particularly China and India. The following chart from Statista illustrates this trend. Just between 2016 and 2025, China’s installed solar power capacity increased by 63% from 15.9 gigawatts to 26.3 gigawatts, while India’s capacity nearly doubled from 3.7 gigawatts to 6.7 gigawatts.

This is interesting because, generally speaking, economists and financial analysts have deemed India a bit of a mystery when it comes to energy use. Some believe that the country is a ‘brick in the wall’ when it comes to energy consumption, while others think that India is a rare example of a country that significantly reduces its energy consumption despite its growing economy.

The Growth Of Wind Energy

While solar power is clearly the renewable energy source experiencing the biggest increase in popularity, it’s also important to bear in mind that other forms of renewable energy, like wind energy, are also growing fast. The following chart from Statista illustrates this point. Between 2016 and 2025, the installed capacity of wind power around the world is predicted to increase by 69%.

However, while the demand for and growth in renewable energy is promising, there is also the issue of where this energy is coming from. More and more people are questioning whether or not renewable energy is truly ‘green’, and some have even gone as far as to say that some renewable energy sources, like biofuels, have actually worsened climate change. For example, while the production of solar power doesn’t require as much energy as it takes to make it, the extraction of raw materials like silicon and copper, as well as the manufacture of solar cells, does. So, while solar power plants produce no carbon emissions, they do emit other pollutants, like nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, which are harmful to our environment. (1)

The Growth Of Biomass Energy

Renewable energy isn’t only about the sun and the wind. There are also a host of plant-based and eco-friendly energy sources that are becoming more and more popular every day. The popularity of these sources stems from a desire to reduce one’s impact on the environment. Biomass energy, like landfill gas and wood waste, is a sustainable energy source that is produced by industrial processes and activities, like paper and textile mills. The following chart from Statista illustrates just how much biomass energy was expected to grow in the coming years. Between 2016 and 2025, the analysts at Deloitte predict that total worldwide biomass energy capacity will increase by 55%.

Bioplastics, a type of biomass energy, are also increasingly used in plastic bottles and other types of containers. While the growth in these applications is encouraging, it’s also worth mentioning that the production of plastics, particularly the types used in food packaging, is highly polluting. It also contributes to the growing mountains of waste that are clogging up our landfills. For these reasons, it’s still not clear whether or not biomass energy is the ultimate green energy source.

Overall, The Rise In Adoption Of Renewable Energy Sources Has Substantially Boosted The Demand For Clean Energy Worldwide

With the increased demand for and popularity of renewable energy sources, like solar power, there is now a clearer picture of just how much energy our world actually needs. When you combine this with the fact that renewable energy is pollution-free and eco-friendly, it’s apparent that the increased adoption of these sources has substantially boosted the demand for clean energy worldwide. This trend is only going to continue in the coming years as more and more people, businesses, and countries look to reduce their carbon footprint.

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