Prior to 2011, large scale solar deployment had been largely confined to two continents: Europe and North America. The world market had reached about 20,000 megawatts per year by 2010 but nearly all of that was in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the US.
While countries in Asia made solar panels, they built very little solar capacity at home through 2010. That may well have changed in a big way in 2011.
Though not publicly available today on its website, a report that yesterday briefly appeared on the Solarbuzz website (http://www.solarbuzz.com/) stated that Asia's solar installations reached 6,000 megawatts or 6 gigawatts in 2011. China installed 1,700 megawatts or about what the US installed in 2011. Japan had a big increase to 1,300 megawatts. India too was stated to be building substantial amounts of new solar.
Expanding solar deployment at large scale to Asia is big energy development that impacts favorably North America and Europe. Asian deployment of solar both diversifies and enlarges the global solar market at a key time, given current European economic peril. The already big and fast growing Asian solar market lessens the dependence of the global solar industry on deployment in Europe or North America and goes a long way to insuring that solar will continue to thrive.
The opening of the Asian market also fuels further solar cost reductions made possible by economies of scale. Solar is a global business and what happens in Asia impacts solar's competitiveness around the world.
Solar was not going to be an industry that reshaped how energy is made in the 21st century until it was built in Asia. Now that is happening and growing in a big way.