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African solar goes mainstream

Nov, 2013 - Philip Wolfe -

In the last five years, deployment of utility-scale PV power stations has increased explosively, to become the fastest-growing sector of the solar industry. Wiki-Solar founder Philip Wolfe explains how Africa is starting to emerge as a player in the generation of mainstream solar power

The Letsatsi project in South Africa is one of a growing number of planned and operational utility-scale PV plants in the continent, which is beginning to embrace larger projects. Source: SolarReserve.

While rooftop and off-grid applications of solar photovoltaics are widely recognised, the generation of bulk power is still relatively new. Yet this sector has become the main driver of growth in the global solar business, especially as other segments have subsided in recent years.

The worldwide installed capacity of 10MW-plus PV plants is likely to reach 20GWp by the end of the year. This represents a compound annual growth rate of over 75% since 2008. With an additional 40GWp of projects in the development pipeline, we can expect this expansion to continue.

Figure 1. The global annual deployment of utility-scale (10MW+) solar

Europe was in the vanguard of these developments up until to 2011, since when North America and Asia have made giant strides. Wiki-Solar’s analysis of the global utility-scale solar market shows that the majority of the current global capacity of 17.5GWp is divided between these three continents.

However, if you also include projects in development, (see Figure 2b), it looks as though South America and Africa are preparing to join the first division.

Figure 2. World market by continent; installed and total pipeline


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Updated: 2003/07/28