Germany Leads The Way In Solar PV

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One of the reasons for Germany's lead in solar energy is that other sources of energy are more expensive in the country.

Germany is outpacing the rest of the world in switching to solar power, by a large margin.  In August of this year, 320 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity was installed in Germany.  With that development, the total PV capacity of the nation reached 30 gigawatts.  How does that measure up next to the U.S.A.?  The total amount of PV power in Germany comes to about 24 times the amount of solar capacity in all of California, which is the solar leader in the U.S. and a leading solar market in the world.

 

In 2011 alone almost 7.5 gigawatts of solar PV capacity were installed in Germany.  By the end of 2011, the total PV capacity in Germany was 3 gigawatts above that of the U.S.  And, in fact the U.S. isn’t Germany’s biggest competitor in PV installations.  Italy is second.  Perhaps the chief reason that these nations lead in solar capacity is that feed-in tariffs (FITs) are robust and do much to promote solar PV installation.  Even owners with small PV installations receive premium payment for the power their systems feed into the grid.

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In Germany, efforts are made to supply residents with the most cost effective options for alternative energy.

Another factor which is contributing to Germany’s success is that the boom in solar infrastructure has driven down costs dramatically.  It is cheaper in Germany to make the investment and power your home solely with your own solar panels than it is to buy electricity.

U.S. gains in PV capacity have been aggressive in the past two years but they are still modest when compared to Germany and Italy and one reason is most likely the comparatively lackluster incentives.  Germany’s FIT is now set at about 25 cents per KW hour  as the country reaches for their target of 54 GW of installed capacity. When governing powers offer incentives that go along with their stated desire to increase renewable energy production we see results like Germany has achieved.

Another reason solar PV capacity hasn’t grown as quickly in the U.S. is that solar installers who have benefited a great deal from the decline in the cost of PV panels have not passed on savings to their customers.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the cost of solar in the U.S., now that steep duties are imposed on China, a nation found to have violated trade agreements in flooding global markets with underpriced solar panels.  The duties on Chinese solar imports are a source of good news for U.S. solar manufacturers, but the cost of solar panels will undoubtedly rise.

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Germany continues to be a leader in the solar industry as we begin 2013.

Solar manufacturers worldwide are very optimistic that solar PV installations will continue to grow, in spite of global economic struggles.  One reason for the optimism is the rising cost of energy from other sources, such as oil and gas.  Another reason it’s believed that solar will continue to go strong is that there is global pressure to protect the planet and use clean energy.

 

Seventy percent of global solar PV installations are in Europe.  Another way to look at it is that globally 70 gigawatts of solar power are installed, and 51 of those gigawatts are in Europe. But Germany carries most of the weight in this solar domination in Europe. Perhaps Germany leads the world because they are driven by lofty goals. Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the nation’s economic development agency expects Solar PV alone to provide one tenth of the country’s entire power needs within next three years. In the first half of 2012 renewable energy provided 26% of all the electricity in Germany with Solar PV being a fast-growing portion of that energy segment.

In spite of all of these statistics, the U.S. is no slacker as regards solar power.  The largest record for solar installations in the U.S. was achieved in the third quarter of 2012.  Total solar capacity in the U.S. is 1,992 megawatts and climbing.

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