The unstoppable tide of solar illustrated by the rise of floating projects


Global energy markets are changing, and fast.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports global solar installations totalled 98 GW last year, 31% up on 2016 with China's 53 GW in 2017 accounting for more than half the worldwide total.

Last year set solar milestones such as record low utility tariffs – with deflation over the last two years hitting 50% in several markets; the world's largest operational solar project, a 1,547 MW giant at Tengger in China; and a record-breaking 150 MW floating solar installation, also in China.

India’s push for the development of ‘Industrial Solar Parks' has driven construction on a number of huge utility scale schemes, including the almost complete 2,225 MW Bhadla solar industrial park in Rajasthan, and the State of Gujarat is aiming to beat that with April's announcement of a planned 5 GW project.

A report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) examines almost 100 of the world's largest operational and planned solar projects, with 14 of the biggest under construction in India, China, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Portugal and Australia.

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The report also focuses on corporate renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) such as those which have seen tech giants Amazon, Microsoft and Apple procure renewable power for their energy-intensive data centres, either from existing facilities or their own rooftop installations. The take-up of corporate PPAs is at a record level, according to IEEFA, with solar accounting for a rising proportion of them.

Highlighting the rise of floating solar, the report examines China's largest operational project – a 40 MW scheme in Anhui district – as well as more ambitious plans, and the potential for similar projects to be deployed in reservoirs, waste water treatment facilities, fish farms and collapsed coal mines in countries including Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam and England.

In another sunny year for solar, the IEEFA report's authors also note residential and commercial and industrial rooftop solar installations topped 28 GW last year, up 27% year on year versus the 22 GW added in 2016.

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