LONDON The world added about 16 gigawatts of new solar photovoltaic (PV) power in 2010, double the growth seen a year earlier, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association told Reuters on Monday.
Uncertainty about Italian figures made a precise figure difficult, after an end-of-year rush to qualify for a higher solar power price premium, called a feed-in tariff.
The global increase compared with 7.2 GW of new capacity in 2009, confounding a financial crisis and reflecting sharp falls in solar panel prices and generous subsidies, especially in Germany and Italy.
"Solar PV is continuing to develop in countries that put a feed-in tariff in place," said EPIA economist Gaetan Masson.
The added capacity in 2010 brought cumulative, global solar PV power to nearly 40 GW, up 70 percent from nearly 23 GW in 2009.
Europe dominated new solar power installations last year, at about 13 gigawatts (GW), Masson estimated, with Germany and Italy accounting for nearly 7 GW and about 3 GW respectively.
Estimates for the other major European players included the Czech Republic (1.3 GW), France (0.5 GW), Spain (0.4), Belgium (0.25) and Greece (0.2).
Outside Europe, the biggest markets were Japan (about 1 GW), United States (0.8 GW) and China (0.4 GW).
Solar panel prices have halved since 2007, say analysts, at about $1.8 per watt at the end of 2010 compared with $3.7 three years earlier.
The fortunes of the solar market contrasted with wind, which last year shrank for the first time in two decades as a result of a difficult market for project finance as well as uncertain regulatory support.
(Reporting by Gerard Wynn, Editing by Json Neely)