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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

Visualizing the Worldโ€™s Largest Hydroelectric Dams

Hydroelectric dams generate 40% of the world’s renewable energy, the largest of any type. View this infographic to learn more.

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Visualizing the Worldโ€™s Largest Hydroelectric Dams

Did you know that hydroelectricity is the worldโ€™s biggest source of renewable energy? According to recent figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it represents 40% of total capacity, ahead of solar (28%) and wind (27%).

This type of energy is generated by hydroelectric power stations, which are essentially large dams that use the water flow to spin a turbine. They can also serve secondary functions such as flow monitoring and flood control.

To help you learn more about hydropower, weโ€™ve visualized the five largest hydroelectric dams in the world, ranked by their maximum output.

Overview of the Data

The following table lists key information about the five dams shown in this graphic, as of 2021. Installed capacity is the maximum amount of power that a plant can generate under full load.

CountryDamRiverInstalled Capacity
(gigawatts)
Dimensions
(meters)
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ ChinaThree Gorges DamYangtze River22.5181 x 2,335
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Brazil / ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡พ ParaguayItaipu DamParana River14.0196 x 7,919
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ ChinaXiluodu DamJinsha River13.9286 x 700
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท BrazilBelo Monte DamXingu River11.290 X 3,545
๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ช VenezuelaGuri DamCaroni River10.2162 x 7,426

At the top of the list is Chinaโ€™s Three Gorges Dam, which opened in 2003. It has an installed capacity of 22.5 gigawatts (GW), which is close to double the second-place Itaipu Dam.

In terms of annual output, the Itaipu Dam actually produces about the same amount of electricity. This is because the Parana River has a low seasonal variance, meaning the flow rate changes very little throughout the year. On the other hand, the Yangtze River has a significant drop in flow for several months of the year.

For a point of comparison, here is the installed capacity of the worldโ€™s three largest solar power plants, also as of 2021:

  • Bhadla Solar Park, India: 2.2 GW
  • Hainan Solar Park, China: 2.2 GW
  • Pavagada Solar Park, India: 2.1 GW

Compared to our largest dams, solar plants have a much lower installed capacity. However, in terms of cost (cents per kilowatt-hour), the two are actually quite even.

Closer Look: Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is an engineering marvel, costing over $32 billion to construct. To wrap your head around its massive scale, consider the following facts:

  • The Three Gorges Reservoir (which feeds the dam) contains 39 trillion kg of water (42 billion tons)
  • In terms of area, the reservoir spans 400 square miles (1,045 square km)
  • The mass of this reservoir is large enough to slow the Earth’s rotation by 0.06 microseconds

Of course, any man-made structure this large is bound to have a profound impact on the environment. In a 2010 study, it was found that the dam has triggered over 3,000 earthquakes and landslides since 2003.

The Consequences of Hydroelectric Dams

While hydropower can be cost-effective, there are some legitimate concerns about its long-term sustainability.

For starters, hydroelectric dams require large upstream reservoirs to ensure a consistent supply of water. Flooding new areas of land can disrupt wildlife, degrade water quality, and even cause natural disasters like earthquakes.

Dams can also disrupt the natural flow of rivers. Other studies have found that millions of people living downstream from large dams suffer from food insecurity and flooding.

Whereas the benefits have generally been delivered to urban centers or industrial-scale agricultural developments, river-dependent populations located downstream of dams have experienced a difficult upheaval of their livelihoods.
– Richter, B.D. et al. (2010)

Perhaps the greatest risk to hydropower is climate change itself. For example, due to the rising frequency of droughts, hydroelectric dams in places like California are becoming significantly less economical.

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Electrification

Charted: The Most Expensive Battery Metals

Battery metal prices have surged over the last year, with one tonne of lithium now worth over $75,000.

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most expensive battery metals

The Five Most Expensive Battery Metals

Battery metal markets are booming on the back of rising electric vehicle sales.

Supply chain issues and a global rush to secure supplies have skyrocketed battery metal prices over the last year. And if battery metals remain expensive, the decade-long freefall in lithium-ion battery prices might come to a temporary halt.

The above infographic highlights the five most expensive battery metals as of November 2022 using prices from Shanghai Metals Market.

How Much Do Battery Metals Cost?

Cobalt was by far the most expensive battery metal until late 2021, which was when lithium prices hit an inflection point, heading towards all-time highs.

A single tonne of lithium carbonate, one of the refined forms of lithium thatโ€™s used in batteries, now costs over $75,000, up from around $6,500 at the beginning of 2021.

MetalPrice per tonneUse in batteries
Lithium carbonate$78,009Cathode
Cobalt (refined)$46,902Cathode
Nickel$26,751Cathode
Copper$9,140Current collectors
Manganese (electrolytic metal)$2,225Cathode

Prices have been converted from yuan to USD via xe.com as of Nov. 8, 2022.

Lithium carbonate prices rose by around 496% in 2021, and have surged by over 100% year-to-date as of November 2022. Increasing EV demand and sales are driving prices from the demand side, with the lack of supply tightening the squeeze.

This year, lithium supplies have been affected by heatwaves in China, where some factories were temporarily shut down due to power shortages from drought-hit hydropower generation. From a broader perspective, it takes anywhere between three to five years for new lithium supply capacity to come online, making it difficult for suppliers to react quickly to rising demand.

Cobaltโ€™s high cost is largely attributed to how geographically concentrated its supply is. Around 70% of global mined cobalt production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Furthermore, cobalt mining in the DRC is associated with several human rights issues, including child labor.

The majority of the most expensive battery metals are used to build the cathode. The cathode is arguably the most important part of the battery, determining performance, longevity, and range. Copper is the only non-cathode material on the list. Thanks to its excellent electrical conductivity, copper is used as a current collector for battery anodes, serving as a medium for electric current and an outlet for heat.

On average, the cathode accounts for 51% of the cost of a single lithium-ion battery cell, largely due to the metals it contains.

What Does This Mean for EVs?

After falling by 89% from 2010 to 2021, lithium-ion battery pack prices are forecasted to rise this year, according to BloombergNEF.

Average battery pack prices are expected to increase from $132 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2021 to $135/kWh in 2022. While the increase is small, if prolonged, it could delay price parity between EVs and gas-powered cars, which is projected to occur once prices fall below $100/kWh.

In terms of the EV transition, higher battery metal prices could ultimately end up increasing the cost of the average electric vehicle, potentially becoming a speed bump to EV adoption. Consequently, an increase in battery metal supply and the subsequent stabilization in prices will be critical in keeping EV momentum on track.

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