Infographic: The Top Ten Countries for Solar Energy Now

By Matthew Wheeland - December 8, 2011
Infographic: The Top Ten Countries for Solar Energy Now

Infographic: The Top Ten Countries for Solar Energy Now

Sittin’ Sunny: The Top 10 Countries Using Solar

Despite a shaky European economy and the recent prominent failure of a U.S.-based panel manufacturer, the solar market at large has continued its upward trajectory of rapid growth in the last two years. Lower costs, new applications, and plenty of investor interest have helped these 10 countries become the world’s leaders in installed solar.

Belgium: 803 Megawatts

A net-metering scheme and a national tax rebate program for residential installations helped Belgium grow to more than 800 megawatts in 2010. Belgium is the only successful market in the EU that uses Green Certificates (similar to RECs in the U.S. market) instead of a feed-in tariff. The market should remain at roughly 200 to 300 megawatts per year going forward.

France: 1,025 Megawatts

In 2010, solar electricity in France grew to the level many had been expecting for years—last year the country added 719 megawatts. However, recent changes to the regulatory framework and temporary halts to installations have hampered growth. Future projects may be limited but already approved projects will grow to capacity this year.

Spain: 3,784 Megawatts

The most recent data suggests about 370 megawatts were installed in Spain in 2010. 2009 was a hectic year for the country’s PV market, due to adverse lobbying and possible retroactive legislation. The EPIA speculates that current policies will place constraints on future PV market growth unless they’re changed.

Germany: 17,193 Megawatts

Once again in 2010, Germany set the pace for global solar growth with 7.4 gigawatts installed. It continues to attract investors with the lowest system prices on the market and a feed-in tariff that brings in price certainty and longterm contracts. The country is now considering self-consumption (greater consumption by plant operators) to smooth the integration of solar systems into the grid.

Czech Republic: 1,953 Megawatts

The Czech Republic connected an astounding 1,490 megawatts of solar last year, driven mainly by an overly generous feed-in tariff. As a result, the trajectory of market development there appears unsustainable. The growth has spurred strong reactions from both the government and grid operators (troubled by the risk of grid instability) and is prompting legislative changes.

Italy: 3,494 Megawatts

The most recent data points to a huge 2010 for solar electricity in Italy, but confusion about the exact numbers makes the future uncertain. Estimates reach as high as 6 gigawatts’ worth of solar installed, but by the end of 2010, only 2.3 gigawatts had been connected to the grid.

USA: 2,528 Megawatts

The market for solar electricity in the U.S. is expanding rapidly, boosted by rising electricity costs and a high level of insolation (how much sunshine it gets). Within the U.S. solar market, California dominates with 60 percent of all U.S. solar installations, but the rate of installations is actually higher in states like New Jersey, thanks to juicy incentives. All told, already planned projects in the U.S. represent up to 15 gigawatts’ worth of future growth alone.

China: 893 Megawatts

China could become a gigawatt-sized market this year thanks to strong government support. In particular, the first full year of the national “Golden Sun” program (which provided upfront subsidies for qualified solar projects) fueled a veritable explosion of the solar market in 2010. The National People’s Congress has set a 5 gigawatt goal by 2015 and 20 to 30 gigawatts by 2020.

South Korea: 655 Megawatts

South Korea gets a ton of sunshine and South Korea’s solar photovoltaic installations are expected to grow in the coming years, but experts suggest that growth will be constrained to around 200 to 360 megawatts a year for the next five years.

Japan: 3,662 Megawatts

Up until the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, the Japanese solar market had been developing quickly—with 990 megawatts installed in 2010. However, experts speculate the power generation gap will jump-start the solar market there quickly, fueled by an all-time high level of consumer interest in solar power.

Rest of the World: 9%

The rest of the holds just 9% of the installed solar on the planet, meaning the top ten countries are responsible for the vast majority of the current growth in solar energy.

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