The renewable energy revolution continues to grow dramatically worldwide, with investment in the sector hitting an all-time high in 2015. Solar energy plays one of the biggest roles in the growth of the renewable energy sector globally. Not only is solar becoming more affordable for the everyday consumer, but many nations are taking it upon themselves to develop utility scale solar projects. Here are the 10 countries with the largest amount of solar capacity in the world.
Germany’s total capacity places them in the lead by a long way with 35.5 gigawatts of solar capacity. In 2014, solar panels accounted for between 6 and 7 percent of the country’s net electricity generation. It has been the world’s top PV installer for a number of years, with around 1.5 million photovoltaic systems installed nationwide. Germany has long term targets to increase its renewable energy capacity to 35 percent by 2020, 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
- United States
The US has a particularly strong position in the utility-scale solar market, with 25 gigawatts of installed solar capacity as of 2015. National legislation surrounding renewable energy development has contributed greatly to the success of the United States in the solar energy race.
China comes in second at 18.3 gigawatts capacity. The world’s most highly populated nation is also unsurprisingly the one with the largest carbon footprint. Since 2009, china has increased its solar capacity by 6,000 percent. Being one of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturers has made the journey to being one of the largest consumers of solar power in the world slightly easier for China as their panels don’t need to be imported.
With a total capacity of 17.6 gigawatts, Italy is doing very well for itself considering its relative size to China. The percentage that solar takes up of Italy’s energy supply is more than any other nation in the world, at 7.8 percent. This figure is expected to double by 2030. Solar power growth has been especially rapid in recent years with Italy’s solar capacity increasing 15-fold between 2009 and 2013.
Japan is another small nation that boasts an impressive capacity of solar power relative to its geographical size and population. With 13.6 gigawatts of solar capacity so far, Japan has increased its solar capacity more than 500 percent in the space of four years. One area Japan is particularly known for in the solar industry is the development of floating solar farms, which are an increasingly popular form of utility scale solar installations.
Spain is one of the sunniest countries in Europe, giving it little excuse not to be up to scratch in the solar stakes. Coming in sixth place with 5.6 gigawatts capacity, Spain is the world leader in what is called concentrated solar capacity – a technology that uses mirrors or lenses in order to concentrate a large amount of solar energy into a relatively small area.
Similar to their German neighbours, the French have been able to benefit from generous FiT schemes that have strongly encouraged the adoption of solar panels for private installation. France currently has 4.6 gigawatts of solar capacity. A declining political support for solar energy and renewable energy progress has been impacting the growth of solar energy in recent years.
As one of the sunniest nations in the world, Australia’s solar industry is a booming one, particularly in the home solar panels industry. With around 4.1 gigawatts of capacity, once again, FiT schemes and financial rebates have greatly encouraged home owners in Australia to install solar panels in their homes. According to Australian Solar Quotes, Solar power currently costs around half of what grid electricity costs in Australia, so the simple price of electricity is pushing the solar boom to new heights in the island nation.
Belgium is a small but serious competitor in the global solar competition, with 3 gigawatts of capacity despite a small size and population. In 2014, Belgium made history when their solar capacity supplied more than 20 percent of the nation’s overall electricity consumption. Belgium uses a ‘Green Certificates’ scheme which is similar to a FiT scheme to encourage the adoption of renewable energy.
- United Kingdom
The UK being on the list of largest solar nations in the world is evidence that any nation can be a serious solar contender in spite of unfavourable amounts of sunlight. The UK boasts around 2.9 gigawatts of solar capacity.