Solar power investments broke records last year, surpassing wind power investments, according to a report by energy experts GlobalData.

The report states that global renewable power investments reached $209bn in 2011, as the industry witnessed changing geographical opportunities.

Renewables received high investments in the US, while changing economic conditions in Europe affected available funding.

However, government policies continue to prove themselves as a major factor in the renewable power market, encouraging the worldwide switch from carbon-emitting methods to clean power generation.

The record-breaking year will also result in a cash boost for the industrial gas sector, which plays a key role in the creation of photovoltaic (PV) panels.

PV cells are produced by using silicon (Si), wafers and microchips. These three products are created by various sections of the industrial gas family.

And with the increase in demand for PV devices; nitrogen, argon, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen trifluoride and fluorine, are all critical gases for the expansion of production.

In 2011, solar power investments seized a huge 49% share of global renewable power investments, compared to the 34% share given to wind power.

A drastic decrease in solar PV module prices, due to oversupply issues, resulted in an increase in capacity installations.

Venture financing and private equity investments were also high for solar technology developments. With solar power prices approaching grid-parity, asset financing investments in this area have witnessed a higher growth rate than other renewable generation technologies.

Renewable power investments from Europe are anticipated to drop in 2012, as the region’s credit crisis continues to damage economic stability.

However, North America will continue to demonstrate high investments in both solar and wind power, particularly towards the development of new wind power projects.