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The Great Renewable Energy Race

Global investment in renewable energy climbed to a record $260 billion last year, and the race for clean power is just getting started.

We reported last week how new solar and wind technologies are approaching price parity with traditionally cheaper coal- and gas-burning power plants. Today, the world’s regions go head-to-head.

The interactive graphic below illustrates the historical growth and future projections of world renewable energy capacity, according to analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The size of the circles represents the new energy capacity installed each year. Costs decline over time as technology improves and competition increases. The bubble’s color changes from red (expensive) to green (inexpensive), showing the declining cost of each new gigawatt of capacity.

Use the slider below to see where new wind and solar generation has been and will be installed.
2012

1990

2030

Wind

In 2012 there was
47.74 GW in new
wind generation at a turbine price of 0.93 million per MW.

49.6% was in Asia
31.2% in the Americas
19.2% in Europe, Middle
East, and Africa

Asia and Oceania

Americas

Europe,
Middle East,
and Africa

Solar

In 2012 there was
24.57 GW in new
solar generation at a module price of 0.94 per watt.

30.3% was in Asia
13.9% in the Americas
55.8% in Europe, Middle
East, and Africa

Asia and Oceania

Americas

Europe,
Middle East,
and Africa

Solar

$8.00/watt

$0.20/watt

Wind

€1.75 mln/MW

€0.75 mln/MW

10 GW

50 GW

Where the Wind Blows

The wind energy market started in the U.S. in the 1980s, in a drive
for greater energy independence. Investment shifted to Europe
in the 1990s, drawn by grants, incentives and so-called feed-in tariffs,
which encourage cost reductions by locking in long-term prices
at favorable rates.

Turbine installations moved to Asia in 2009. By 2011, China, the world's biggest wind investor, was installing 20 gigawatts of wind power a year, three times as much as the U.S., the second biggest investor. Asia will remain the most active region for wind investment until 2019, according to BNEF estimates.

Where the Sun Shines

Japan dominated solar installations in the 1990s, when the market remained small. In 2004, European feed-in tariffs abruptly shifted the solar focus to Europe, where it remains today.

The decline in crystalline solar silicon prices has been dramatic. As the cost of producing solar approaches parity with retail electricity purchased from the grid, installations are expected to shift from utility-scale solar fields to smaller-scale rooftop projects. The biggest share will move to Asia next year, according to BNEF: China's total solar capacity is expected to climb to 272 gigawatts in 2030 from less than 1 gigawatt today.

Note: All data in 2011 dollars and 2011 euros. Data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Correction: An earlier version of this graphic displayed the turbine price of wind in Euros per megawatt. The correct unit is millions of euros per megawatt.

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