A report published this month by the International Energy Agency says the world’s renewable energy capacity is exploding, and it doesn’t look like it’ll slow down anytime soon.
Renewable energy appears to have pulled through, because even though supply chains around the world have been a mess and the materials to make things like solar panels or wind turbines have gone up in cost, 2021 will set an all-time record for renewables installation.
On top of that, the world’s carbon-free energy supply is predicted to skyrocket over the next five years. 290 gigawatts of power capacity from renewable sources will be added to the world’s energy supply in 2021.
This beats last year’s record of 260 GW. Putting these numbers in perspective is tough because it’s such a huge amount of energy, but here are a few figures to use as a basis of comparison.
Mammoth Solar farm, which is under construction in northwest Indiana, will occupy an area equal to about 1,000 football stadiums and have a generating capacity of 1.65 GW. The biggest solar farm in the world is Bhadla Solar Park in India, which has a capacity of 2.25 GW. The Hoover Dam at its peak could generate 2.08 GW. The biggest coal-fired power plant in the US is Plant Scherer in Georgia, and its four generating units have a combined capacity of 3.5 GW. These figures are all dwarfed by the IEA’s reported figure of 290 GW; in just one year, the world added renewable energy capacity equivalent to more than 128 monster solar farms, 140 Hoover Dams, or 82 massive coal plants.
China also accounts for almost 45 percent of all the new renewables in the world, followed by the US, India, and Germany. China is aiming to have 40 percent of its energy consumption come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.
The world’s biggest source of renewable energy at the moment is hydropower, but that’s expected to remain static or even decline, with wind and solar driving most of the forecast growth over the next five years.
It’s important to keep in mind that all this new energy capacity coming from renewable sources doesn’t equate to a similar proportion of fossil fuel sources being phased out. Demand for energy is constantly growing, and will only continue to do so.
As the global middle class expands, more people will want things that require energy both to produce and to use. The rise of renewable energy seems to be the trend that is making the biggest impact in the energy sector.