For the past 10 years, solar growth has exceeded forecasts by a wide margin thanks to the continual decline of costs of costs all fronts, namely in hardware and installation. Last year, solar saw exponential growth, with 28 GW of PV installed in the United States, and is expected to increase 120% by the end of 2016. With the costs of capital and project acquisitions dropping too, global solar markets could see even more exponential growth.

Growth however comes in jagged peaks and valleys. With the ITC extension ending in 2017, solar development is expected to slow down, but also expected to pick up again in 2018- this time, stronger than ever. A report from GTM Research suggests that the global solar market will grow by 43%, and a record 73 GW solar PV will be installed in 2016.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has a less bullish view, but still pretty breathtaking, with 27% rise and 67 GW projected in 2016. They predict that 2017 and 2018 will also be very strong with 25% and 23% growth respectively. Whatever the correct numbers are-  27% or 43%, something clearly is going right for solar. These forecasts, however, may be undervalued by 5x of what is currently projected. In five years, solar, wind and storage will be well on their way to turning the whole energy infrastructure as we know it upside down.

The first half of 2016 saw major installations in China (20GW!) although the projection for the second half of 2016 in China is ~7GW; a dramatic pullback from the first half. Last year, China boasted about 7.7 GW solar installations in the first half of 2015 as being remarkable. My, how quickly things change.

For reasons indicated above, 2016 is going to be a standout year for solar PV in the US. The market is predicted to add another 16 GW, as utility PV is expected to drive the majority of demand, accounting for nearly three-fourths of new installations. With 10 GW of utility-scale solar PV projects under construction as of August 2016, this would make it the second largest PV market after China, with nearly 44 GW in total installed capacity.

India, which started from nowhere, now has 25 GW of solar projects in advanced stages, with 13 GW currently under construction. They’re expected to install 5.4 GW in 2016, becoming the 4th largest solar market in the world. India is benefiting from overcapacity in China in the short term while it looks to expand capacity through partnerships with major solar companies like Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, Hanwha Solar and First Solar.

While Japanese markets have experienced significant growth in recent years, their future as a major market player grows increasingly uncertain. Growing steadily from around 3 GW in 2012 to about 12 GW in 2015, this year is expected to be the Japan’s best year yet, with a projected 14 GW of solar PV to be installed. However, the incentives that buoyed the market after the atomic meltdown in Fukushima after the earthquake in 2011 are expected to taper off, decreasing PV installations to nearly 11 GW in 2017, then to an astounding 2 GW in 2018, predicts BNEF.

Over the past decade, the successes and failures in solar have been great. We’ve witnessed the exponential growth of both mature and emerging markets, record low installation and auction prices and the bankruptcy of major industry giants. While the future of solar in the near term faces challenges, over the long term, it’s becoming increasingly clear that renewable energy is on it’s way to becoming a mainstream source of energy, as it’s now able to compete with coal and fossil fuels. The success of renewables however doesn’t only rely on technology or policy – but capital as well. In order to gain the capital needed to succeed in this epic energy transformation, solar and all renewable’s evolution into a mature asset class is crucial.