That’s according to Clean Edge, Inc.’s newly issued report Clean Energy Trends 2012, and it’s only the tip of the renewable iceberg. In all, revenue related to renewable leading renewable energy technologies, like wind, solar and biomass, grew by 31 percent to $246.1 billion over the $188.1 billion in revenue in 2010.
Solar saw perhaps the most dramatic change.
Total installations last year grew to more than 26.5 gigawatts throughout the world, according to report author Ron Pernick. That’s up from 15.6 gigawatts in 2010, according to the report.
But despite nearly doubling 2010’s installations, solar revenue only grew by 29 percent to $91.6 billion in 2011, compared to $71.2 billion in 2010.
“Solar PV is falling dramatically,” said Pernick. The report found that on a year-over-year basis the cost of PV fell by 43 percent.
Germany remained the international leader, according to Pernick. The U.S. installed less than 2 gigawatts of solar last year.
“Of the 26.5 about 7.5 of that was installed in Germany. They represent a third to a quarter of the global market,” he said.
The U.S. represented less than 10 percent of the work market for solar last year.
Part of the reason for the higher adoption in Germany is because solar costs less there thanks to the country’s feed-in tariff.
“Prices in Germany have dropped lower than in the U.S., being installed in sub $3-peak-watt range,” Pernick said.
The lowered prices may not last for long as Germany considers whether it should cool the PV market down by reducing the incentive.
The feed-in tariffs, ramping programs and tax credits all have a dramatic impact on renewable energy markets, according to Pernick.
“You have to track it on a year-to-year basis to see how these things fall out,” he said.
Declining prices of PV pose a question as well.
“How much of a subsidy do you need to support those types of prices?,” Pernick said. “We believe that oil and gas subsidies should be stopped immediately. We think that clean energy technologies have been at a historical deficit compared to oil and gas subsidies.”
Pernick recommended continued subsidies for renewable energy sources for now, with a decline as the technology becomes less expensive.
The future will be defined by nations that create innovative financing tools like those created by companies like SolarCity and Sungevity, but will still rely on federal support to help create financial infrastructure that encourages such investments.
If it keeps up, Clean Edge thinks the global revenue for solar could reach $130.5 billion by 2021.