Top 10 Countries Using Solar Power

By Matthew Wheeland - July 27, 2010

*Last Modified: June 14th, 2014

Spain Solar Panels

Ten Countries with the Most Installed Solar Energy (in MW*)

We hear a lot about how Germany and Spain have increased solar energy greatly in recent years with supportive government policies. We also hear a lot about China’s big clean energy push. And, despite trouble getting the US federal government to do much for solar energy, we know that the US is still continuously moving forward on this front. But have you ever wondered which countries in the world have the most installed solar energy?

Below are the top ten countries in the world according to installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity. Think you know the order? You might be surprised…see if you can name all ten countries in the right order before continuing on.

1. Germany (9,785 MW) -

German Solar PanelsGermany is clearly the world leader. In 2009 alone, Germany installed 3,806 megawatts (MW) of PV solar energy capacity, which is more than Spain’s total capacity and almost eight times more than the U.S. installed last year. “The combination of a proven feed-in-tariff (FiT) scheme, good financing opportunities, a large availability of skilled PV companies, and a good public awareness of the PV technology, largely contributed to this success,” European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) reports.

Germany is expected to remain the top purchaser of solar panels throughout 2010 and may add 5,000 MW of new solar power this year. The feed-in-tariff program will begin to cut incentives this year, and growth will eventually slow. Still, over the long term, Germany has a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2050, so it is likely that Germany will remain a strong market for solar power.

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2. Spain (3,386 MW) -

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Spain was the world leader in newly installed PV solar energy (2,605 MW) in 2008 due to the government’s focus on creating a national solar energy industry, but its new installed capacity decreased tremendously (to just 69 MW) in 2009. The reasons for this drop are attributed to complexity and delays related to a new government subsidy program and a decrease in energy demand due to the economic crisis. With expectations that both of these will improve in 2010, and considering its excellent sun irradiation and PV potential, Spain is expected to bump up its solar energy capacity again this year.

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3. Japan (2,633 MW) -

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Japan is third globally and also a country worth emulating. Government residential PV programs, net-metering, high national solar energy goals to reach 28 GW by 2020 and 53 GW by 2030, as well as the support of local authorities and the private sector make Japan a world leader in this field. Japan invested $9 billion in stimulus money in solar energy in 2009, and the prime minister also announced a plan to install solar power at 32,000 public schools.

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4. United States (1,650 MW) -

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Supportive state-level policies are a major driver of growth in the US. With many large ground-mounted solar projects in the pipeline, installed capacity in the US is expected to grow significantly in coming years. Additionally, national legislation promoting solar energy (if it comes through) could move the US forward considerably. The cap on the federal solar tax credit was lifted in 2009, promoting growth in this industry. Despite the recent recession, the US market for residential solar panels doubled in 2009, and increased 37% from 2008.

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5. Italy (1,167 MW) -

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Mixing net-metering and a well-segmented FiT (combined with a lot of sunshine), Italy has become a world leader in solar energy. In 2009, Italy experienced the second-largest solar energy growth in the world. Every two months, Italians install more solar power than California does in an entire year. (To put that in perspective, Italy is slightly smaller in land size than California, with a fairly similar population). “The future growth of the market will depend on the streamlining and harmonisation of administrative procedures, combined with an adapted decrease of the FIT in the third Conto Energia to cope with the expected price decrease,” the EPIA reports.

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6. Czech Republic (465 MW) -

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A generous FiT and simple administrative procedures have put the Czech Republic on this list. Per capita, it installed more new solar power than any other country besides Germany in 2009. The market growth has probably boomed unsustainably (and a little unexpectedly), however, and if appropriate policies aren’t put in place to slow it, the nascent solar bubble is expected to bust in the coming years.

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7. Belgium (363 MW) -

Solar-powered flowers in Belgium.

The image above shows Belgian solar flowers. Belgium was also a bit of a 2009 solar energy surprise. Belgium’s success was from “a well-designed Green Certificates scheme (which actually works as a Feed-in Tariff), combined with additional tax rebates and electricity self-consumption.” Belgium is not expected to do so well in 2010 “due to a foreseen tariff decrease.”

Image © Artist Alexandre Dang, www.alexandredang.com

8. China (305 MW) -

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China gets a lot of attention these days for its clean energy push, and for good reason. China is a major solar panel manufacturer but hasn’t installed a ton of PV itself yet. However, it now has 12 gigawatts (GW) of large projects in the pipeline and if those projects are implemented China is expected to jump closer to the top of the list. According to China’s national energy plan, it is expected to reach a total of 20 GW by 2020. Nonetheless, as with many things in China, the plans remain vague (to the rest of the world), at least for now.

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9. France (272 MW) -

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France has a well-designed FiT for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), so BIPV dominates the market there. They’ve put protections in place to help avoid abuse of the system, and may revise the tariffs to accompany price speculations. One key issue of concern in France is that although many MW of solar energy have been installed, a lot of them have not been connected to the grid. In 2009, 285 MW of capacity was installed but only 185 MW connected to the grid. This is a major issue that needs to be resolved.

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10. India (120 MW) -

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Similar to China, India has fast-increasing electricity demand and it has very high sun irradiation levels. It’s government has also been moving forward strongly on clean energy. It has a goal to reach 20 GW by 2020 as well. “Besides the National Solar Mission of 2009, the market expects much of the possible decision this year to define a longterm power purchase agreement that could definitively trigger PV deployment in India,” EPIA states. India could quickly rise higher on this list with proper government strategies.

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*Figures as of the end of 2009 via the European Photovoltaic Industry Association [PDF]

Have more to add or questions about this list? Comment below. Special thanks to Adele Peters for her contribution to this article. Sign up with PURE Home Solar for group discounts, or use our calculator to estimate the cost of solar panels for your home.

By Dave Llorens

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