With the efficiency of solar cells constantly increasing and the growing international need for alternative energy solutions now a more pressing issue than ever before, a race has begun amongst the world’s nations to light up the road ahead for solar energy generation.
Let’s take a look at which countries are currently leading the way…
#5 – The United States
As one of the world’s largest, wealthiest and most powerful nations, you might expect the USA to be heading up the list as it does in so many other technological arenas. However, the US has not been so quick to adopt solar energy solutions across the board and perhaps this is because its energy interests are presently very diverse. In fact, it has just been awarded the questionable title of ‘the world’s largest oil producer’ (taking over from Saudi Arabia) and as such, it is evident that renewable energy sources are not its primary energy concern at present.
However, it has still seen substantial growth in terms of solar photovoltaic (or PV) peak power capacity (MWp) over the last few years. This has increased from 2,519 MWp in 2010 to over 11,933 in 2013*, so although the US may have other sources of energy in its sights right now, it certainly understands the current importance and necessity for a solid solar power infrastructure.
#4 – Japan
Renowned for its technical expertise and innovation, it may not come as too much of a surprise to see Japan featuring high up on this list. As one of the leading manufacturers of solar panels and also being the world’s fourth largest energy consumer, it was an obvious solution for the Japanese government to implement solar energy generation as widely as possible.
Japan’s commercial solar projects have actually now superseded its domestic ones and the recently reduced Feed-In Tariff of 32 Yen/kWh in April of 2014 has not seemed to slow progress noticeably. In the last three years, the nation has seen its capacity increase from 3,617 MWp to a huge 13,600.
#3 – Italy
Perhaps one of the less predictable countries to appear on our list, Italy has actually seen some of the most impressive growth in the world over the last few years. In fact, the country generates so much solar energy, that a number of its gas turbine power plants now operate at half their potential during the daytime, and a 2013 report found that solar energy generation had already reached grid parity.
Since 2010, Italy has increased its capacity by over 410% from 3,502 MWp to 17,928 in 2013. The solar industry has also provided employment to around 100,000 Italian residents and inevitably contributed to decreasing fossil fuel dependence and environmental pollution.
#2 – China
Many readers might expect China to appear somewhere on this list, due to the sheer size of its population alone and up until 2013, it was the world leader. With solar energy being adopted heavily (including widespread rooftop solar water heating systems) and strict targets set in place for future developments, China may well regain the pole position in the very near future.
In 2011, the then largest solar farm in the world was completed – the Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park and since that time, China’s capacity has grown from 3,093 MWp to 18,100 in 2013. With a huge, industrious workforce producing the majority of components that make up solar power systems worldwide, it looks very likely that China will have a massive influence over the future direction and implementation of solar technology for many years to come.
#1 – Germany
Germany has received a large amount of media attention for its renewable energy initiatives in recent times and so it may not come as too much of a surprise that it currently leads the world in terms of capacity. In fact, it has held this position for a number of years now and with a capacity that has increased from 17,320 MWp in 2010 to 35,715 in 2013, Germany might retain the title for a little while longer.
The rate of increase has slowed in recent years however and many critics point to lack of government commitment as the cause, although the German Government still maintains its target of 100% renewable electricity generation by 2050. It is likely however that by the end of the decade, China will have overtaken Germany as the world’s top solar energy generator.
Although the UK is not in the top five positions (currently at number eight), it has seen incredible growth over the last four years. From 2010 when the capacity was at 72 MWp, to 2013 where it jumped to 3,375, there was an increase of over 4,500%.
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*All solar photovoltaic peak power capacity statistics courtesy of http://www.epia.org/home/