The centre of gravity of the solar power world is shifting. While Asia and North America accelerated their rate of new installations during 2016, Europe installed less new capacity (7 GW) than it did a year previously (nearly 9 GW). Global solar power grew by very nearly half during 2016, according to provisional statistics released by trade association Solar Power Europe – 76 GW of new capacity was added in 2016. The largest market, China installed more than double its 2015 total to reach a current generating capacity that represents 45% of the world total.

Far below China, the US now has 19% of global PV capacity; it added 14 GW of new plant during 2016, nearly twice its 2106 figure. Japan has the world’s third-largest solar power fleet, just ahead of Europe and, in fifth place, India.

Solar Power Europe blames a poor support policy framework in Europe and has called on the European Commission to do more to support its growth. But the solar market is clearly booming in other regions – as illustrated by two announcements in the last week.

Shipping company UPS has said it will invest $18 million in on-site solar projects in the US to provide a nearly five-fold increase in the amount of solar power it generates by the end of this year. Meanwhile, a 150 kW PV array – the third to be installed at the site – has come on-line India’s Marathwada Institute of Technology in Maharashtra state.

Another boost to solar power in Europe and elsewhere could come from an interesting new supplier to this market – marine and stationary engine manufacturer Wärtsilä from Finland, well known to DE readers for its on-site and cogeneration power plants. The company says its move into large-scale PV has come from strong customer demand. Quoting a Bloomberg prediction that the PV market will grow by a factor of four by 2021, Wärtsilä aims to get its share of the action by supplying large PV schemes (10 MW or larger), either as stand-alone solutions or as hybrid solar/engine installations.

As the Wärtsilä announcement says, solar power is growing faster than any other power sector, including wind, across the world. Already an established supplier of flexible ‘smart power generation’ systems based on gas engines, the company is happy to help its customers invest in renewables generating capacity too.