Solar, wind and biofuel markets smash revenue records

The global market for solar PV, wind energy, and biofuels grew 31 per cent during 2011 to almost $250bn (£160bn), according to new figures from analyst firm Clean Edge Inc.

The US-based firm today released its annual Clean Energy Trends 2012 report, revealing that combined global revenue for solar PV, wind power and biofuels defied the tough economic environment to grow from $188.1bn in 2010 to $246.1bn last year.

However, Ron Pernick, Clean Edge co-founder and managing director, warned the renewables sector is failing to get the credit it deserves for its rapid growth. He noted that numerous success stories have been overshadowed – at least in the US – by the collapse of government-backed solar firm Solyndra.

“Last year saw many in the clean-tech community caught off guard, as the industry became a modern-day whipping boy,” he said in a statement. “The attacks, offered up in sound bite-sized nuggets delivered more for impact than accuracy, overlooked the fact that many clean-energy technologies are becoming cost-competitive, [are] central to the expansion of energy markets in places like China, Japan and Germany, and [are] a critical hedge against more volatile forms of traditional energy.”

In contrast, the report highlights how core renewable technologies all posted new revenue records during 2011.

For example, the global market for solar PV grew 29 per cent from $71.2bn in 2010 to $91.6bn last year, driven by falling technology prices that helped fuel a 69 per cent increase in installations. Clean Edge said it expects the trend that saw solar costs fall 40 per cent last year to continue, resulting in average global costs for solar falling from $3.47 per watt last year to $1.28 per watt by the end of the decade.

Similarly, the market for new wind power installations reached a record $71.5bn in 2011, up 18 per cent from $60.5 billion in 2010. Total new capacity also delivered a new record with 41.6GW of new capacity added, 40 per cent of which came from China.

Finally, the biofuels market reached a record $83bn in 2011, up from $56.4bn in 2010. However, the report noted that the increase was largely driven by rising prices for ethanol and biodiesel.

In addition to tracking the growth of leading renewable energy markets, the report also cited data from the Cleantech Group that shows US-based venture capital clean-tech investment rose 30 per cent last year to $6.6bn, accounting for a record 23.2 per cent of all US venture activity.

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