A record-breaking 38 GW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity came online in 2013, bringing the world’s installed PV capacity to almost 140 GW, a new report has found.

According to the Earth Policy Institute’s World Cumulative Solar Photovoltaics Installations, 2000-2013 report, Asia dominated the field and China, which leads the world in PV manufacturing, also led in installations.

Between 2010 and 2012, China’s PV capacity grew by a factor of nine to 7 GW, the report found, while in 2013 the nation added 11.3 GW, the largest capacity addition by any country in a single year.

China has focused on installing large solar power plants in remote areas, the Earth Institute said, such as the world’s largest PV project, a 320 MW installation co-located with a hydropower plant in Qinghai province, completed in late 2013. The nation also aims for growth in the rooftop PV segment, with a target of over 8 GW for 2014. Overall, China is targeting 70 GW of installed PV capacity by 2017.

Second in installations in 2013 was Japan, which added 6.9 GW for a total installed PV capacity of 13.6 GW. The report identified the nation’s generous feed-in tariff (FiT), established in 2012 in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, as the main driver behind Japan’s solar growth.

While Japan’s solar sector is currently dominated by rooftop systems, the report found that most new capacity installed in 2013 came from larger projects. And this trend is continuing, with an 82 MW PV park opened in Oita Prefecture in 2014, and a consortium led by Kyocera planning a 430 MW project in the Goto Islands off Nagasaki Prefecture in Kyushu.

Overall, Japan is targeting 28 GW of installed solar PV by 2020.

Elsewhere in Asia, India almost doubled its PV capacity in 2013, the report said. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission has revised its target upwards, from 22 GW to 34 GW, aiming to generate 3 per cent of the nation’s electricity from PV by 2022.

In terms of total installed capacity, Germany is still the world leader, with 36 GW installed, but a reduction in FiT rates halved German installations in 2013. Reduced FiT rates from 2011 and their elimination altogether in 2013 have also slowed installations in third-ranked Italy, which has a total capacity of 17.6 GW. 

In the Americas, the US added around 4.8 GW in 2013, bringing its total capacity to 12 GW, while Canada added 440 MW for a total capacity of 1.2 GW and Mexico’s capacity reached 240 MW. Brazil is predicted to double its PV capacity to over 70 MW in 2014, while Chile’s 100 MW solar project in the Atacama Desert is the largest in Latin America.

According to the Earth Policy Institute’s findings, solar PV is the world’s most rapidly growing energy technology, with global installations for 2014 predicted to reach at least 40 GW, an expansion of 30 per cent.