Graphic of the day: solar's dramatic rise

Solar photovoltaic installations have increased at an explosive pace since 2007. Check out these graphics to see which countries and regions are driving that growth.

The increase in solar photovoltaic capacity has been well documented in reports here and elsewhere over the years. But nothing quite captures solar PV's dramatic rise in capacity like a good graphic. Or three graphics, for that matter.

Solar power generating capacity grew by 73.3 percent in 2011, according to the 2012 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. That's the fastest growth since BP started tracking that data in 1996. Total capacity grew by 29.3 gigawatts to reach 63.4 GW. Capacity has grown almost ten-fold over the past five years, according to BP's annual report.

BP released its annual statistical review last month and at the time, the graphic, which is pictured below, stood out to me.  I proceeded to promptly forget the visually striking data until today, when I spotted a series of renewable energy graphics based on BP's stats created by Robert Rapier of R-Squared blog at ConsumerEnergyReport.com. Rapier's renewable energy graphics are part of a larger graphical series on energy.

Here's BP's graphic, which accompanied the report.

Here is Rapier's global solar PV graphic.

Both graphics illustrate Europe's primary role in driving solar PV capacity, thanks largely to incentives. In 2011, solar capacity growth was dominated by two countries, Italy, which added 9.3 GW, and Germany, which added 7.5 GW. Together, they accounted for 57.1 percent of global capacity growth in 2011, according to BP's report.

The U.S. and China clearly trail Europe in terms of solar power generation. Rapier broke out the solar PV numbers for the U.S., China and Japan to illustrate the dramatic growth in those countries as well.

Photo: SunEdison; Graphics from BP and Robert Rapier

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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