Mapping the world's solar panels

Mapping the world's solar panels

12 November 2021

Writing in The Conversation, Lucas Kruitwagen says an astonishing 82% decrease in the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy since 2010 has given the world a chance to build a zero-emissions energy system which might be less costly than the fossil-fuelled system it replaces.


He and his colleagues have published the first global inventory of large solar energy generating facilities in Nature. They built a machine learning system to detect these facilities in satellite imagery and then deployed the system on over 550 terabytes of imagery using several human lifetimes of computing, searching almost half of Earth’s land surface area, filtering out remote areas far from human populations.


The study shows solar PV generating capacity grew by a remarkable 81% between 2016 and 2018, the period for which we had timestamped imagery. Growth was led particularly by increases in India (184%), Turkey (143%), China (120%) and Japan (119%).

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay