The world’s cumulative solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity capacity surpassed 100 gigawatts (GW) in 2012, achieving just more than 101 GW, according to market figures from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

The surpassing of the 100-GW mark occurred in yet another year of strong global photovoltaic (PV) development, with an estimated 30 GW connected to the grid and made operational in 2012—roughly the same as the record-setting level of 2011. These results are preliminary, and the 30-GW figure could increase by an additional 1 or 2 GW when final numbers come in. Final results for the year will be published in May, in EPIA’s annual “Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2013–2017.”

“No one would have predicted even 10 years ago that we would see more than 100 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity in the world by 2012,” said Winfried Hoffmann, EPIA president. “The photovoltaic industry clearly faces challenges, but the results of 2012 show there is a strong global market for our technology. Even in tough economic times and despite growing regulatory uncertainty, we have nearly managed to repeat the record year of 2011.”

But the year also showed an important shift toward a more global PV market, with 13 GW of PV installations occurring outside of Europe (compared to just under 8 GW in 2011) and nearly 17 GW in Europe (compared to nearly 23 GW in 2011). The top three European PV markets in 2012 were Germany (with 7.6 GW), Italy (3.3 GW) and France (1.2 GW). The top three non-European markets were China (with at least 3.5 GW and possibly as much as 4.5 GW), the United States (3.2 GW) and Japan (2.5 GW).

“The key, going forward, will be to address these new market challenges and continue policies that help PV technology to grow sustainably, continuing its evolution to a mainstream electricity source,” Hoffmann said.