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Mapped: Solar Power by Country in 2021

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Solar Power by Country

Mapped: Solar Power by Country in 2021

The world is adopting renewable energy at an unprecedented pace, and solar power is leading the way.

Despite a 4.5% fall in global energy demand in 2020, renewable energy technologies showed promising progress. While the growth in renewables was strong across the board, solar power led from the front with 127 gigawatts installed in 2020, its largest-ever annual capacity expansion.

The above infographic uses data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to map solar power capacity by country in 2021. This includes both solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power capacity.

The Solar Power Leaderboard

From the Americas to Oceania, countries in virtually every continent (except Antarctica) added more solar to their mix last year. Hereโ€™s a snapshot of solar power capacity by country at the beginning of 2021:

CountryInstalled capacity, megawattsWatts* per capita% of world total
China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ 254,35514735.6%
U.S. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ 75,57223110.6%
Japan ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต 67,0004989.4%
Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช 53,7835937.5%
India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ 39,211325.5%
Italy ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น 21,6003453.0%
Australia ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ 17,6276372.5%
Vietnam ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ณ 16,504602.3%
South Korea ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท 14,5752172.0%
Spain ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ 14,0891862.0%
United Kingdom ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง 13,5632001.9%
France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท 11,7331481.6%
Netherlands ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ 10,2133961.4%
Brazil ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท 7,881221.1%
Turkey ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท 6,668730.9%
South Africa ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 5,990440.8%
Taiwan ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ 5,8171720.8%
Belgium ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช 5,6463940.8%
Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ 5,644350.8%
Ukraine ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 5,3601140.8%
Poland ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ 3,936340.6%
Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 3,325880.5%
Greece ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท 3,2472580.5%
Chile ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ 3,2051420.4%
Switzerland ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ 3,1182950.4%
Thailand ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ 2,988430.4%
United Arab Emirates ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช 2,5391850.4%
Austria ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น 2,2201780.3%
Czech Republic ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ 2,0731940.3%
Hungary ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ 1,9531310.3%
Egypt ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ 1,694170.2%
Malaysia ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ 1,493280.2%
Israel ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ 1,4391340.2%
Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ 1,42870.2%
Sweden ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช 1,417630.2%
Romania ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด 1,387710.2%
Jordan ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ด 1,3591000.2%
Denmark ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ 1,3001860.2%
Bulgaria ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ 1,0731520.2%
Philippines ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ 1,04890.1%
Portugal ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น 1,025810.1%
Argentina ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท 764170.1%
Pakistan ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฐ 73760.1%
Morocco ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 73460.1%
Slovakia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ 593870.1%
Honduras ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ณ 514530.1%
Algeria ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฟ 448100.1%
El Salvador ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ป 429660.1%
Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท 41450.1%
Saudi Arabia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 409120.1%
Finland ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ 391390.1%
Dominican Republic ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ด 370340.1%
Peru ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช 331100.05%
Singapore ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ 329450.05%
Bangladesh ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฉ 30120.04%
Slovenia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ 2671280.04%
Uruguay ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡พ 256740.04%
Yemen ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡ช 25380.04%
Iraq ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ถ 21650.03%
Cambodia ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ญ 208120.03%
Cyprus ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ 2001470.03%
Panama ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฆ 198460.03%
Luxembourg ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡บ 1952440.03%
Malta ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น 1843120.03%
Indonesia ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ 17210.02%
Cuba ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡บ 163140.02%
Belarus ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡พ 159170.02%
Senegal ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ณ 15580.02%
Norway ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด 152170.02%
Lithuania ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น 148370.02%
Namibia ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 145550.02%
New Zealand ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ 142290.02%
Estonia ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช 130980.02%
Bolivia ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ด 120100.02%
Oman ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ฒ 109210.02%
Colombia ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด 10720.01%
Kenya ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช 10620.01%
Guatemala ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡น10160.01%
Croatia ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท 85170.01%
World total ๐ŸŒŽ 713,97083100.0%

*1 megawatt = 1,000,000 watts.

China is the undisputed leader in solar installations, with over 35% of global capacity. What’s more, the country is showing no signs of slowing down. It has the worldโ€™s largest wind and solar project in the pipeline, which could add another 400,000MW to its clean energy capacity.

Following China from afar is the U.S., which recently surpassed 100,000MW of solar power capacity after installing another 50,000MW in the first three months of 2021. Annual solar growth in the U.S. has averaged an impressive 42% over the last decade. Policies like the solar investment tax credit, which offers a 26% tax credit on residential and commercial solar systems, have helped propel the industry forward.

Although Australia hosts a fraction of Chinaโ€™s solar capacity, it tops the per capita rankings due to its relatively low population of 26 million people. The Australian continent receives the highest amount of solar radiation of any continent, and over 30% of Australian households now have rooftop solar PV systems.

China: The Solar Champion

In 2020, President Xi Jinping stated that China aims to be carbon neutral by 2060, and the country is taking steps to get there.

China is a leader in the solar industry, and it seems to have cracked the code for the entire solar supply chain. In 2019, Chinese firms produced 66% of the worldโ€™s polysilicon, the initial building block of silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) panels. Furthermore, more than three-quarters of solar cells came from China, along with 72% of the worldโ€™s PV panels.

With that said, itโ€™s no surprise that 5 of the worldโ€™s 10 largest solar parks are in China, and it will likely continue to build more as it transitions to carbon neutrality.

Whatโ€™s Driving the Rush for Solar Power?

The energy transition is a major factor in the rise of renewables, but solarโ€™s growth is partly due to how cheap it has become over time. Solar energy costs have fallen exponentially over the last decade, and itโ€™s now the cheapest source of new energy generation.

Since 2010, the cost of solar power has seen a 85% decrease, down from $0.28 to $0.04 per kWh. According to MIT researchers, economies of scale have been the single-largest factor in continuing the cost decline for the last decade. In other words, as the world installed and made more solar panels, production became cheaper and more efficient.

This year, solar costs are rising due to supply chain issues, but the rise is likely to be temporary as bottlenecks resolve.

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Electrification

The Key Minerals in an EV Battery

Which key minerals power the lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles?

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minerals in an EV battery infographic

Breaking Down the Key Minerals in an EV Battery

Inside practically every electric vehicle (EV) is a lithium-ion battery that depends on several key minerals that help power it.

Some minerals make up intricate parts within the cell to ensure the flow of electrical current. Others protect it from accidental damage on the outside.

This infographic uses data from the European Federation for Transport and Environment to break down the key minerals in an EV battery. The mineral content is based on the โ€˜average 2020 batteryโ€™, which refers to the weighted average of battery chemistries on the market in 2020.

The Battery Minerals Mix

The cells in the average battery with a 60 kilowatt-hour (kWh) capacityโ€”the same size thatโ€™s used in a Chevy Boltโ€”contained roughly 185 kilograms of minerals. This figure excludes materials in the electrolyte, binder, separator, and battery pack casing.

MineralCell PartAmount Contained in the Avg. 2020 Battery (kg)% of Total
GraphiteAnode52kg28.1%
AluminumCathode, Casing, Current collectors35kg18.9%
NickelCathode29kg15.7%
CopperCurrent collectors20kg10.8%
SteelCasing20kg10.8%
ManganeseCathode10kg5.4%
CobaltCathode8kg4.3%
LithiumCathode6kg3.2%
IronCathode5kg2.7%
TotalN/A185kg100%

The cathode contains the widest variety of minerals and is arguably the most important and expensive component of the battery. The composition of the cathode is a major determinant in the performance of the battery, with each mineral offering a unique benefit.

For example, NMC batteries, which accounted for 72% of batteries used in EVs in 2020 (excluding China), have a cathode composed of nickel, manganese, and cobalt along with lithium. The higher nickel content in these batteries tends to increase their energy density or the amount of energy stored per unit of volume, increasing the driving range of the EV. Cobalt and manganese often act as stabilizers in NMC batteries, improving their safety.

Altogether, materials in the cathode account for 31.3% of the mineral weight in the average battery produced in 2020. This figure doesn’t include aluminum, which is used in nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) cathode chemistries, but is also used elsewhere in the battery for casing and current collectors.

Meanwhile, graphite has been the go-to material for anodes due to its relatively low cost, abundance, and long cycle life. Since the entire anode is made up of graphite, itโ€™s the single-largest mineral component of the battery. Other materials include steel in the casing that protects the cell from external damage, along with copper, used as the current collector for the anode.

Minerals Bonded by Chemistry

There are several types of lithium-ion batteries with different compositions of cathode minerals. Their names typically allude to their mineral breakdown.

For example:

  • NMC811 batteries cathode composition:
    80% nickel
    10% manganese
    10% cobalt
  • NMC523 batteries cathode composition:
    50% nickel
    20% manganese
    30% cobalt

Hereโ€™s how the mineral contents differ for various battery chemistries with a 60kWh capacity:

battery minerals by chemistry

With consumers looking for higher-range EVs that do not need frequent recharging, nickel-rich cathodes have become commonplace. In fact, nickel-based chemistries accounted for 80% of the battery capacity deployed in new plug-in EVs in 2021.

Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries do not use any nickel and typically offer lower energy densities at better value. Unlike nickel-based batteries that use lithium hydroxide compounds in the cathode, LFP batteries use lithium carbonate, which is a cheaper alternative. Tesla recently joined several Chinese automakers in using LFP cathodes for standard-range cars, driving the price of lithium carbonate to record highs.

The EV battery market is still in its early hours, with plenty of growth on the horizon. Battery chemistries are constantly evolving, and as automakers come up with new models with different characteristics, itโ€™ll be interesting to see which new cathodes come around the block.

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Electrification

Charted: Home Heating Systems in the U.S.

Which fuels do U.S. home heating systems use?

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home heating systems in the U.S. broken down by share of fuel sources

Charted: Home Heating Systems in the U.S.

Fossil fuel combustion for the heating of commercial and residential buildings accounts for roughly 13% of annual greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Decarbonizing the U.S. economy requires a switch from fossil fuel-combusting heating solutions to renewable energy sources that generate electricity.

Currently, the majority of new homes in the U.S. still combust natural gas for heating through forced-air furnaces or boilers. Just like cars need to be electric, homes will need to switch to electricity-powered heating systems that use renewable energy sources.

The graphic above uses census data to break down the different heating systems and fuels that are warming the 911,000 single-family homes built in the U.S. in 2020.

Types of Home Heating Systems

Most American homes use one of the following three heating systems:

  • Forced-air Furnaces: These typically have a burner in a furnace that is fueled by natural gas. A blower forces cold air through a heat exchanger which warms it up before it flows through ducts that heat the home with air as the medium.
  • Heat Pumps: The most common type of heat pumps are air-source heat pumps, which collect hot air from outside the home and concentrate it before pumping it through ducts that heat the air inside. They are usually powered by electricity. During warmer months, heat pumps can reverse themselves to cool the home, transferring hot air from the inside to the outdoors.
  • Hot Water/Steam: These systems typically work by boiling water (or generating steam) to the appropriate temperature using gas and sending it through a homeโ€™s pipes to radiators that heat the air.

How Home Heating Fuels Have Changed

U.S. home heating has been going through a transition over the last two decades. Electricity has steadily been replacing gas and biofuel/wood-powered home heating systems for new homes, and powers almost half of the heating systems in single-family homes built in 2020.

Hereโ€™s how the share of heat sources for new houses changed between 2000 and 2020:

Fuel2000 % of Heating for New Homes2020 % of Heating for New Homes
Gas70%55%
Electricity27%45%
Other4%1%

Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

While electricity’s share has grown since 2000, most American homes are still heated with gas largely because of the fossil fuel’s affordability.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), households relying on gas for space heating are expected to spend an average of $746 over the winter months, compared to $1,268 for electricity, and $1,734 for heating oil.

Heating in Newly-Built Houses Today

Of the 911,000 new single-family homes, 538,000 houses installed forced-air furnaces. Of these, 83% or nearly 450,000 homes used gas as the primary heating source, with 16% opting for electrified furnaces. By contrast, 88% of the 353,000 homes that installed heat pumps relied on electricity.

Hereโ€™s how the heating systems and fuels break down for single-family homes built in 2020:

System UsedHouses Built in 2020% Powered by Gas% Powered by Electricity% Powered by Other
Forced-Air Furnace538,00083%16%<0.5%
Heat Pump353,00012%88%0%
Hot Water/Steam8,00089%5%7%
Other/None12,00012%41%47%

Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Fewer than 1% of new single-family homes used hot water or steam systems, and the majority of those that did relied on gas as the primary fuel. Around 1.3% of new homes used other systems like electric baseboard heaters, smaller space heaters, panel heaters, or radiators.

While gas remains the dominant heating source today, efforts to decarbonize the U.S. economy could further prompt a shift towards electricity-based heating systems, with electric heat pumps likely taking up a larger piece of the pie.

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