Outlook for Solar and the Rest of the Clean Energy Market


In a significant transition for clean energy, solar beats wind in new installed generating capacity for 2013. That’s just part of the clean-energy picture for 2013. In a new report, Clean Edge identifies key trends that will affect the industry in the next few years.

Last year marked a significant transition in the history of clean energy: for the first time since 2000, the world installed more new solar PV generating capacity than wind power. Solar, at 36.5 GW of new installed capacity, beat out wind power’s 35.5 GW.

What led to this? According to the Clean Energy Trends 2014 report released today by Clean Edge, Inc., the change was caused by a combination of two factors: record levels of new solar deployment in China, Japan, and the U.S. plus a down year in the wind industry.


The global clean-energy picture for 2013 was a classic good news-bad news story, according to Clean Edge, a cleantech research and advisory firm. The industry saw dazzling growth, success, and rising stock prices in some sectors, most notably in solar PV deployment. On the other hand, there were downward trends and policy and finance hurdles in other areas.


The global solar market continued its double-digit growth of 15%. But the wind industry’s downturn meant that overall, the global renewables market stayed nearly the same as the previous year.


The full Clean Energy Trends 2014 report can be downloaded for free at www.cleanedge.com.


“The adoption of clean energy is set against a bigger-picture context that finds many of the world’s largest energy-using nations struggling with critical choices for their energy future,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge co-founder and managing director. “Climate disruptions, smog alerts, planned and unplanned nuclear power shutdowns, and resource scarcity are all driving significant change, accelerating the double-digit adoption growth of solar PV, hybrid and electric vehicles, green buildings, and other clean-tech solutions.”


Some of the key findings from the Clean Energy Trends 2014 report:


  • Solar PV (including modules, system components, and installation) grew to $91.3 billion from $79.7 billion in 2012, with a record 36.5 GW installed globally. In contrast to 2011 and 2012, when PV panel costs plummeted more than 20% in both years, prices held nearly steady last year, dropping slightly to $2.50 per watt installed.

  • Clean Edge projects that the combined solar, wind, and biofuels sectors will expand from $247.6 billion in 2013 to $397.8 billion within a decade.

  • Venture capital investments in U.S.-based cleantech companies totaled $4.4 billion in 2013, falling 25% from $5.8 billion in 2012. Picking up some of the VC financing slack is the continued rise of large corporate and project finance deals. That includes Goldman Sachs’ $500 million fund to finance SolarCity PV installations and Wells Fargo’s pledge to invest $100 million in tax equity financing in SunEdison projects.

The report also identified some key trends that will affect the solar industry in the near future:


  • Enlightened utilities begin to embrace distributed energy assets.

  • Cities lead climate charge by focusing on regional carbon reduction.

  • Net-zero energy buildings gain ground.

  • Internet-enabled cleantech startups define a new sector.

If Clean Edge is right about these trends, the next few years will be an exciting time for solar.