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Solar Panel Statistics 2022: Everything You Need To Know

Solar

The global solar capacity was 716.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2020

The UK's solar capacity is now 14.6 GW

Cornwall is the best place in the UK for solar, with roughly 8,076 solar sites


Over the past decade, solar panels have emerged as a viable, mainstream solution to climate change. Homeowners are propping them on their roofs, businesses are investing in them to help boost profits, and the UK’s energy mix even includes solar power now.

And as both the energy crisis and climate change worsen, there's never been a better time to brush up on all things renewable – starting with solar.

In this article, we’ll reveal the world’s collective solar capacity, discuss the UK’s ever-improving solar credentials, and find out which area of the UK is best suited for solar panels.

How much solar energy hits the earth every day?

173,000 terawatts (TW) of solar energy strike the Earth at any given moment, according to physics professor Washington Taylor. This is more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use during the same period of time.

To put this into perspective, the world’s population currently consumes roughly 23,900 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power each year – most of which is generated by fossil fuels.

What is the world’s solar capacity?

Solar capacity refers to the maximum output of an entity, such as a country or a solar farm. In 2020, the global solar capacity was 716.2 gigawatts (GW) – a figure that is climbing year on year.

In fact, Bloomberg suggests that a record 183 gigawatts (GW) of new solar photovoltaic (PV) was installed during 2021.

But when it comes to how much solar energy is actually being generated, which country is performing the best? Take a look at the map below to find out.

How much solar energy is consumed worldwide?

According to Our World in Data, the average amount of solar energy consumed per capita was 232 kWh during 2019.

The country that consumed the most solar energy per capita in 2019 was Australia – getting through 1,764 kWh – closely followed by Japan, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates.

Focusing on the amount of energy consumed per capita, rather than cumulative consumption, is particularly useful when comparing countries. This means that the results won’t purely come down to the country’s size.

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

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy contributed to 29% of electricity generation in 2020 – an increase from 27% in 2019.

During this time, hydropower produced over half of the world’s renewable energy (57.8%), with wind contributing to 21.4%, and solar 11.4%.

Data from Our World in Data

 

As you can see, solar makes up quite a small percentage of the global renewable energy mix – but it’s not all doom and gloom. Solar power is set to lead the way in the renewable revolution. In fact, it accounted for more than half of all renewable power expansion in 2021.

What percentage of the UK’s renewable energy is solar?

As it stands, solar doesn’t make up much of the UK’s energy mix – it accounts for only 6.8% of the renewable energy share of electricity generation.

Although this figure is pretty low, it has increased during a pretty rocky period for renewables throughout 2021. For context, renewables were responsible for 35.9% of UK energy generation in the third quarter of 2021, which was 4% lower than the same time in 2020.

Data from Government Energy Trends Report, December 2021

 

As you can see, solar generation increased during 2021, whilst wind and hydro struggled (which was mainly due to bad weather conditions).

The next few years will further shape the UK’s renewable sector, and due to the war in Ukraine and the ongoing energy crisis, exactly how the industry is going to change is still a looming question.

After Russia threatened to restrict the natural gas it exports to European countries, some politicians – including Prime Minister Boris Johnson – are reportedly considering increasing oil drilling in the North Sea, introducing fracking, and ramping up wind power. We’ll have to wait and see what they decide.

What is the UK’s solar capacity?

As of 2021, the UK’s total solar capacity stood at 14.6 GW, according to trade body Solar Energy UK.

Experts are also suggesting that this number will continue increasing each year – with 0.73 gigawatts of solar PV capacity being installed around the UK in 2021 alone.

In response to this record amount of newly installed solar during 2021, Solar Energy UK Chief Executive Chris Hewett said: “More and more consumers and businesses are investing in solar because they know it is a proven way to cut their energy bills and carbon emissions”.

How many solar panels are there in the UK?

Although it’s pretty difficult to estimate the exact number of solar panels in the UK, the government’s 2020 report states that there are roughly 970,000 UK homes with solar panel installations.

This means only 3.3% of the 29 million homes in the UK are generating electricity from solar panels – a figure that will hopefully continue to increase as solar panels get more affordable in the coming years.

There are also currently just under 500 solar farms operating in the UK, which provide clean energy to the Grid.

Ever wondered how many panels we’d need to power the whole country? According to Finder, we would need 29,690 km² of land to home our beloved panels. Compared to larger countries, this is pretty small – but due to the UK’s dainty size, this would take up 12% of our entire landmass.

What is the best county in the UK for solar panels?

Cornwall has been crowned the best county for solar. Home to roughly 8,076 solar sites, it is now one of the best-performing regions for renewable energy in the country.

For perspective, there are a total of 123,802 renewable energy sites in the south-west, and roughly 15% are located in Cornwall.

One of the main reasons why Cornwall is so good for solar is, of course, the weather. Put simply, there’s more sunshine for solar panels to absorb here, compared to panels in places like Scotland or northern England.

To give you an idea of how sunny Cornwall is, we’ve outlined just how much sunlight different UK regions received during 2020 in the chart below.

Whilst sunshine is key for solar panels, you want to make sure that they don’t overheat. According to manufacturers’ standards, 25°C is the optimum temperature for solar panels to operate.

Despite its sunny disposition, Cornwall typically experiences lower temperatures than other southern UK regions, as you can see on the graph below. This makes it the perfect location for panels.

Which country has the most solar panels?

China has the largest solar capacity in the world by a long shot. Want to see just how far ahead the country is when it comes to solar panel numbers? Check out the graph below, which puts China’s reign of (solar) power into perspective:

Data from IRENA

 

China’s growth in the solar industry has been phenomenal – its solar installations have exploded from 2.5 GW of cumulative installation in 2011 to around 130 GW today.

It doesn’t stop there, either. As well as generating all this power domestically, China provided almost 70% of the world’s solar panels in 2020. 

How many solar panels are there in China?

The short answer: a lot. In just 25 years, China has gone from having virtually no solar panels to having at least 100% more than any other country in the world.

What’s even more impressive is how creatively the country has implemented its solar plants. For example, its boldest solar plant, Sungrow Huainan Solar Farm, is the world’s largest floating solar farm. Situated just northwest of Anhui province’s Huainan city, this solar farm holds roughly 166,000 glistening panels on a lake.

China is even getting creative with the placement of its panels on land, too. If you fly over Datong County, you’ll see two giant pandas constructed from thousands of solar panels. And to think, some people complain about how solar panels look.

To put China’s growth into perspective, check out the aerial view of one of its largest solar power plants, Longyangxia solar park – its four million solar panels cover a massive 27 square kilometres (10 square miles) of Qinghai province:

Although the aerial view shows how much the plant has grown, it doesn’t quite emphasise how large it is. The first photo was taken in April 2013, when the plant had just started development, whereas the second was taken in January 2017. Its four million solar panels cover a massive 27 square kilometers (10 square miles) of Qinghai province.

Who is the largest producer of solar panels?

Since China dominates the solar industry, it’s not surprising that it’s home to most of the biggest and best solar panel manufacturers.

Below, we’ve listed the top 10 solar manufacturers in the world.

RankCompanyHeadquarters2020 shipment capacity (GW)
1LONGi SolarChina14.7
2Tongwei SolarChina12.1
3JA SolarChina10.8
4Aiko SolarChina10.5
5Trina SolarChina9.0
6JinkoSolarChina8.7
7Canadian SolarCanada8.3
8ZhongliChina7.4
9SuntechChina6.3
10First SolarUSA5.5

Data from The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's 2021 Solar Industry Update

What is the largest solar panel plant in the world?

Although China is up there in terms of the size and strength of its solar plants, the world’s largest solar panel plant is actually located in India. India’s Bhadla Solar Park spans 14,000 acres, with a capacity of 2.26 GW.

Check out the 10 largest solar panels in the world in the table below:

RankSolar parkLocationSize (GW)
1Bhadla Solar ParkIndia
2Huanghe Hydropower Hainan Solar ParkChina
3Pavagada Solar ParkIndia
4Benban Solar ParkEgypt
5Tengger Desert Solar ParkChina
6Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Power PlantUAE
7Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar ParkUAE
8Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar ParkIndia
9Datong Solar Power Top Runner BaseChina
10NP Kunta Ultra Mega Solar ParkIndia

Attitudes towards solar panels

More homeowners are considering buying solar panels to reduce both their energy bills and their carbon footprints – but not everyone is open to the idea.

In a recent survey, we found that despite roughly three quarters of respondents knowing what solar panels are, only 4% of them have purchased panels in the last 12 months. On the bright side, 10% of respondents said they’re looking to buy a set of solar panels in the next year.

Interestingly, we also found that opinions on solar panels aligned with age. Whilst a staggering 76% of Gen Z said they were likely to purchase solar panels, only 50% of the Silent Generation and 58% of Baby Boomers agreed.

So what’s holding people back? Like many things in life, it comes down to money. In our survey, 61% of respondents said they would buy solar panels if money was no object.

In a separate survey, we also revealed that older generations were put off by solar panels’ appearance.

Respondents were given the option to rate the attractiveness of solar panels on a scale of 1-5, with one being the least attractive and five being the most. We’ve grouped the results together into three categories below.

Again, there’s a dramatic difference between the oldest and the youngest age groups, with half of respondents aged 13-40 considering solar panels as attractive, compared to just 11% of 57-72 year olds. What’s more, zero respondents in the 73-88-year-old bracket found solar panels attractive. 

The oldest age group disliked the look of solar panels so much that a massive 85.7% of them rated solar panels as ‘unattractive’, rather than just ‘acceptable’, compared to just 12.5% of respondents aged 13-24.

What next?

Want to hop on the solar panel bandwagon? Check out our solar panel cost page to figure out what type of panels will suit you and your family.

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Beth Howell Writer

Beth has a real passion for green living. She’s been absorbed in eco research for over three years, and has become quite the expert. Whether you’re after a new set of solar panels, a home energy improvement, or you want to catch the latest eco news, she’s got your back.

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