Mapped: Solar Power by Country in 2021
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Mapped: Solar Power by Country in 2021
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The world is adopting renewable energy at an unprecedented pace, and solar power is the energy source 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. Here’s a snapshot of solar power capacity by country at the beginning of 2021:
|Country||Installed capacity, megawatts||Watts* per capita||% of world total|
|South Korea 🇰🇷||14,575||217||2.0%|
|United Kingdom 🇬🇧||13,563||200||1.9%|
|South Africa 🇿🇦||5,990||44||0.8%|
|United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪||2,539||185||0.4%|
|Czech Republic 🇨🇿||2,073||194||0.3%|
|El Salvador 🇸🇻||429||66||0.1%|
|Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦||409||12||0.1%|
|Dominican Republic 🇩🇴||370||34||0.1%|
|New Zealand 🇳🇿||142||29||0.02%|
|World total 🌎||713,970||83||100.0%|
*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 world’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 China’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 world’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 world’s PV panels.
With that said, it’s no surprise that 5 of the world’s 10 largest solar parks are in China, and it will likely continue to build more as it transitions to carbon neutrality.
What’s Driving the Rush for Solar Power?
The energy transition is a major factor in the rise of renewables, but solar’s growth is partly due to how cheap it has become over time. Solar energy costs have fallen exponentially over the last decade, and it’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.
Here’s Why the Amazon is So Important for Global Food Security
The Amazon rainforest plays a critical role in supporting crop growth by stabilizing the climate and balancing water cycles.
Why is the Amazon Rainforest Important for Food Security?
The Amazon rainforest is home to 400 billion trees and covers 6.7 million square kilometers, but the ‘Earth’s lungs’, as it is commonly referred to, is so much more than that.
Aside from being a key carbon sink, it also plays a critical role in supporting crop growth by stabilizing the climate and balancing water cycles.
In this infographic, our sponsor Brazil Potash looks at how the Amazon regulates rainfall and temperature and how crop yields can be optimized. Let’s dive in.
Rainfall as a Primary Water Source
“Flying rivers” are air currents that carry enormous amounts of water vapor over thousands of kilometers. These airborne rivers are responsible for influencing regional and global weather patterns, including rainfall.
The Amazon flying river cycle begins with water evaporating from the Atlantic Ocean. Wind currents then transport these vapors across the continent, exchanging moisture with the Amazon rainforest through evapotranspiration. Finally, these aerial rivers distribute the moisture as rain.
The trees in the Amazon rainforest release around 20 billion tonnes of water into the atmosphere daily—this is more water than the Mississippi River discharges in 13 months.
Because only around 6% of cropland in Brazil is irrigated, the region relies heavily on this rainfall as a primary water source to support crop growth that feeds both local and global communities.
The Amazon also absorbs billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year through photosynthesis. By absorbing this CO2, it helps regulate temperatures and lessen the effects of climate change.
According to NASA research, the cumulative effects of climate change, accelerated by deforestation, may result in the loss of up to 11 million hectares of agricultural land in Brazil by the 2030s.
The continued sustainable production of Brazil’s crops is essential to food security, but deforestation can harm these efforts.
How to Grow More With Less
Brazil hosts the largest section of the Amazon rainforest at around 60%. The country is also one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural goods.
It’s essential for global food security and for climate change that crop yields in Brazil are increased in areas already allocated for agriculture, instead of clearing new areas in the Amazon rainforest.
A recent study highlights a significant yield gap in Brazil’s primary export, soybeans.
A yield gap is the difference between actual crop yield and potential crop yield.
The following steps proposed could optimize land usage:
- Increase crop yields: This can be done in part by optimizing and increasing fertilizer use. Local fertilizer suppliers are essential to this by providing affordable and accessible fertilizer year-round.
- Double Crop: Continuing to grow a second crop of corn on soybean fields between seasons to optimize land usage. Additional fertilizer is essential to maintain the soil’s nutrients after harvests.
- Raise cattle on smaller pastures: By streamlining the space provided for cattle, additional cropland can be added to support food for both people and livestock.
The Role of Brazil Potash
Brazil Potash aims to support the preservation of the Amazon rainforest by working with farmers to increase crop yields and improve the quality and quantity of food grown, without the need for land expansion.
By keeping farmers informed of fertilizer’s benefits and supporting a more stable supply of local fertilizer, Brazil Potash will continue supporting farming communities for generations to come.
Click here to learn more about sustainable crop growth in the Amazon and Brazil Potash.
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