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Solar panel stats and trends 2024

Decarbonisation is on every nation’s agenda, and solar panels are leading the way in the clean energy revolution towards global net-zero. As they are one of the lowest-cost options for new electricity generation, it’s no surprise that the UK’s solar sector is booming.

Generating 3,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) from solar panels can save about 1.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions compared with a gas-fired power station and, when the amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half could compensate for the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year, there’s clearly a lot of good that can come from installing solar panels domestically, as well as commercially. 

Cost of solar panel installation in the UK and solar energy rates have soared over the past decade and, with an anticipated 75 per cent increase (almost 2,400 gigawatt (GW)) of global renewable capacity for 2027, there are clearly many more advancements to look forward to in the world of solar power.

We’ve gathered together some of the more notable solar panel stats that might encourage you to invest in this incredible technology in your own home.

What percentage of the world’s energy generation is solar?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels accounted for 3.6 per cent of global electricity generation in 2021. This has increased solar PV power generation numbers to 1002.9 terawatt hours (TWh) from 823.8TWh in 2020, representing an increase of up to 22 per cent in 2021, according to an earlier 2022 International Energy Agency’s (IEA) PV analysis.

How much solar energy does the UK generate?

More than 1 million homes across the UK benefit from solar power arrays. The UK also has more than 8GW of solar farms built and operational as of 2022, according to Solar Power Portal. We also saw higher than average sunlight hours, which boosted solar generation by 26 per cent, a trend only set to increase in the next decade.

What is the UK’s solar capacity?

The National Grid anticipates a fivefold increase in solar PV generation in the UK, from 14GW to roughly 70GW by 2030 and there are huge projects and site proposals in place, especially for commercial rooftop space and solar farms. 

Solar Power Portal reported that planning for ground-mounted solar projects reached 40GW in 2022 – this figure comprises 500MW in mega-scale projects and 17GW of capacity. What’s more, there could be around 250,000 hectares of prime, south-facing rooftop space in the UK, according to Solar Energy UK, so there is still room for the domestic-generation industry to grow. Luckily, Solarsense reported a 400 per cent increase in UK solar power commercial enquiries in 2022. 

solar panel farm on greenfield land
Commercial solar farms contribute hugely to the UK’s overall energy generation, and, similarly, domestic-scale solar panel arrays can feed back surplus energy to the National Grid. (Image: Adobe)

What is the world’s solar panel capacity?

Global solar panel uptake statistics for 2022 showed strong continued growth, reaching 1.2TW of cumulative capacity, according to the IEA’s 2023 report. In an earlier report, the IEA noted that “Global renewable capacity is expected to increase by almost 2,400GW (almost 75 per cent) between 2022 and 2027.” So, if you don’t think you’re somehow benefiting from solar power at the moment, you probably are and you most definitely will be in the future.

Which country generates the most solar power?

In 2023, China increased its capacity by 30.8 per cent YoY, to 413GW, more than double of Europe’s. It installed 20.37GW in January and February alone according to National Energy Action (NEA), compared to the 10.86GW in 2022, showing an 87 per cent increase. 

Following China, the US added 18.6GW, and Europe also showed strong growth with 39GW installed overall, with Spain leading the way with a capacity of 8.1GW. The Netherlands showed the smallest PV uptake with 3.9GW.

In the US, solar actually accounted for 39 per cent of all new electricity-generating capacity to the grid in the first half of 2022 according to the SEIA US solar market insight. The report highlights that 180,000 American households installed solar in the second half of 2022, despite trade issues and backlogs.

Which country produces the most solar panels?

China produces virtually 100 per cent of wafers used in solar cells, according to the Solar Panel Portal. And, with more than 250GW of modules anticipated to have been produced and shipped last year – and more than 200GW of global production going to commercial, industrial and utility sites – it’s a lucrative market.

How is the world storing solar energy?

Solar battery storage is essential for energy independence, as much for residential installations as for countries trying to lower their dependency on fossil fuels in order to achieve net-zero targets. 

Across Europe, 1.9GW of grid-scale battery storage was installed in 2022, with almost 85 per cent in the UK, Ireland, Germany and France; another 6GW is expected to be installed in 2023 with at least 95GW of grid-scale battery storage systems in place by 2050, according to Solar Power Portal. The UK itself has 2.1GW of installed battery storage, with planned battery storage capacity exceeding 57GW.

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Cam is an experienced writer and editor who has been creating content for more than 10 years. She studied English Language and Italian at The University of Manchester, where she started out blogging and copywriting on fashion and travel.

She’s worked for Groupon and its partnerships – including <em>The Guardian</em> UK and US, the <em>HuffPost</em>, and</i> – and has covered a plethora of topics, from kitchen design trends to the best ways to score a good deal on home insurance. S

Swifty tapping into her love for everything home decor-related, she moved into the interior design space and edited, part of Future plc, for three years, where she worked with a tonne of DIY and renovation experts.

She currently lives in North London and is passionate about helping others perfect their surroundings with stunning interiors and functional home additions, whether they own or rent.