solar panel installA record amount of money was invested globally in alternative energy in 2011 — more than a quarter trillion dollars, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year, according to research by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The US is once again the leader of the clean energy race, having reclaimed the top spot from China, the leader since 2009. Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and India were also among the nations that most successfully attracted private investments last year.

“Clean energy investment, excluding research and development, has grown by 600 percent since 2004, on the basis of effective national policies that create market certainty,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program. “This increase was due in part to the number of countries that have implemented effective national policies to support the clean energy market.”

The United States attracted $48 billion in investment last year.

Among renewable technologies, solar increased globally by 44 percent, attracting $128 billion and accounting for more than half of all clean energy investment among members of the G-20. Dramatic price declines, with the cost of solar modules dropping by half in the past 12 months, fueled the activity. Wind prices also were lower in 2011.

The combination of falling prices and growing investments accelerated installation of clean energy generating capacity by a record 83.5 gigawatts in 2011. Almost 30 GW of new solar and 43 GW of wind power were deployed. Renewable power generating capacity, at 565 GW globally, was nearly 50 percent more than installed nuclear generating capacity in 2010.

Solar photovoltaic modules are now 75 percent lower than three years ago.

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