Global Energy Monitor

Architecture

Global Energy Monitor’s Global Solar Power Tracker uses a two-level system for organizing information, consisting of both a database and wiki pages with further information. The database tracks individual solar farm phases and includes information such as project owner, status, start year, and location. A wiki page for each solar farm is created within the Global Energy Monitor wiki. The database and wiki pages are updated annually.

Inclusion Criteria

The Global Solar Power Tracker includes photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal electricity generating projects. Solar projects for captive industry, including hydrogen production, are tracked. The Global Solar Power Tracker aims to comprehensively track all operating utility-scale solar project phases with capacities greater than 1 MW, and all announced, pre-construction, construction, and shelved projects with capacities greater than 20 MW.

Status Categories

Announced: Proposed projects that have been described in corporate or government plans or media releases but have not yet taken concrete steps such as applying for permits.

Pre-construction: Projects that are actively moving forward in seeking governmental approvals, land rights, or financing.

Construction: Site preparation and equipment installation are underway.

Operating: The project has been formally commissioned; commercial operation has begun.

Shelved: Suspension of the project has been announced. The status is marked as ‘shelved – inferred 2 y’ if no progress has been observed for at least two years.

Cancelled: A cancellation announcement has been made. The status is marked as ‘cancelled – inferred 4 y’ if no progress has been observed for at least four years.

Retired: The project has been decommissioned.

Mothballed: The project is disused, but not dismantled.

Technology Types

Photovoltaic (PV): Photovoltaic technology uses the photoelectric effect to directly convert sunlight into electricity. Large-scale PV projects consist of thousands of solar panels, themselves composed of tens of individual solar cells, that are wired together and often converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) and fed to the electricity grid.

Solar Thermal: Solar Thermal technology uses Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) or any technology that uses sunlight to generate heat. To be included in the tracker, that heat must  then be used to generate electricity, usually by spinning a turbine. Such technologies include solar towers, solar troughs, solar chimneys, and fresnel reflectors.

Research Process

Data Sources

The Global Solar Power Tracker data set draws on various public data sources, including:

  • Government data on individual power solar farms (such as India Central Electricity Authority’s “Plant Wise Details of All India Renewable Energy Projects” and the U.S. EIA 860 Electric Generator Inventory), country energy and resource plans, and government websites tracking solar farm permits and applications;
  • Reports by power companies (both state-owned and private);
  • News and media reports;
  • Local non-governmental organizations tracking solar farms or permits.

A partial list of data sources can be found here.

Global Energy Monitor researchers perform data validation by comparing our dataset against proprietary and public data such as S&P Global’s World Energy Power Plant database, the World Resource Institute’s Global Power Plant Database, Wiki-Solar, CSP Guru, as well as various company and government sources.

Research process for projects greater than 20 MW

Global Energy Monitor researchers systematically and comprehensively search for and include all solar installations meeting threshold criteria. Open-sourced data sources are exhaustively searched to find all available information for each individual project.

Research process for projects between 1-20 MW

Project phases are incorporated into the tracker using a primarily automated process to identify and de-duplicate installations across a variety of datasets. Projects in this category are mainly captured from government databases, and the coverage of the projects between 1-20 MW is subject to the availability of these sources. In the absence of exhaustive datasets, records from TransitionZero’s Solar Asset Mapper are sourced to improve the coverage after being de-duplicated from the existing projects in the dataset. 

Wiki Pages

For each solar project a wiki page is created on Global Energy Monitor’s wiki. Under standard wiki convention, all information is linked to a publicly accessible reference, such as a news article, company or government report, or a regulatory permit. In order to ensure data integrity in the open-access wiki environment, Global Energy Monitor researchers review all edits of project wiki pages.

Mapping

To allow easy public access to the results, Global Energy Monitor worked with Earth Genome to develop a map-based and table-based interface. In the case of exact coordinates, locations are either specifically identified on a mapping service such as Google Maps, Open Street Maps, etc., or gathered from company or government documentation. If the location of a solar farm or proposal is not known, Global Energy Monitor identifies the most accurate location possible based on available information.

Global Solar Power Tracker Release Notes

June 2024

  • This update covers research on Europe and mainland China as defined by the United Nations’ region definitions.
  • The tracker capacity threshold has been updated to 1 MW. Due to research methodology differences, projects above 20 MW are published in a separate tab in the downloadable dataset.
  • A new data field has been added to indicate when a project phase is dedicated for green hydrogen production.
  • Operator information is no longer researched or updated for countries outside of China.
  • GEM ID formats have changed from an L8+5 digit number to L1+11 digit number for location IDs and a G8+5 digit number to a G1+11 digit number. Previous GEM ID numbers have been preserved. For example, a previous GEM ID of L812345 is now L100000812345.
  • Shelved and cancelled statuses have been broken down into two subcategories depending on if there was an announcement of delay or cancellation, or if the status is inferred by lack of observed progress.
  • The column name “Country” has been changed to “Country/Area”. The Country/Area column presents energy data within various economic contexts, and the geographical unit does not strictly follow political boundaries.

December 2023

  • This update covers research on Africa, Americas, Asia, and Oceania as defined by the United Nations’ region definitions.
  • Project phases above the 20 MW threshold (10 MW for Arabic-speaking countries) are categorized as large utility-scale (previously called Data). Project phases below the large utility-scale threshold and above 1 MW are categorized as medium utility-scale (previously called Below Threshold) and are published in a separate tab in the downloadable dataset. This enables analyses to be comparable across different versions of the dataset while also significantly improving our coverage.

May 2023

  • This update covers research on Europe, Cyprus, and mainland China, as per United Nations’ region and subregion definitions. 
  • Project phases below the 20 MW global threshold (10 MW for Arabic-speaking countries) are provided for some countries when the data were readily available. Data on the below threshold phases is available in the downloadable dataset in a separate tab called ‘Below Threshold.’

January 2023

  • All global regions with the exception of Europe have been researched for this update.
  • The Global Solar Power Tracker now includes solar thermal projects, also known as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).
  • Global Energy Monitor has transitioned to using the United Nations’ region and subregion definitions.
  • The Global Solar Power Tracker has replaced the word “development” in the status domain with the term “pre-construction” to support consistent language across all of Global Energy Monitor’s trackers. The definition of “pre-construction” is consistent with the tracker’s previous definition of “development.”
  • Global Energy Monitor has adopted the name “Türkiye” as a replacement for “Turkey.”