While the sun is a continuous and powerful source of energy, the question is where is solar energy used here on earth? Solar cells and solar panels allow us to harness that energy, offering renewable methods of generating electricity. The opportunities solar power presents has made it the third most important renewable energy source in terms of globally installed capacity, after hydro and wind.
However, some countries have taken advantage of this technology more than others. But where is solar energy used most? This handy guide will reveal which countries use solar power the most and why, so that hopefully we can learn from their actions.
Annual Installed Capacity
Cumulative Installed Capacity
When you consider how large the Chinese solar power industry is, it makes sense that China has the highest installed solar power capacity in the world. Solar power is one of the biggest industries in mainland China, and globally China is the world's largest market for both photovoltaics and solar energy. China has been the primary installer of solar photovoltaics, which absorb the sun's light to create electricity, in the world since 2013, with over 400 solar PV companies in China. In 2015 China reached a photovoltaic installed capacity of 43 GW, setting it on track to be the world's largest producer of photovoltaic power. China also dominate the market for solar heating, achieving a total installed capacity of 290 GW by the end of 2014, 70% of the world's total installed solar thermal capacity.
China shows no signs of slowing down in their quest for solar power supremacy, as evidenced by its consistent increase of its annual and short-term targets. China has set itself an ambitious target of installing 150 GW of solar power by 2020. Its solar capacity target for 2017 is 70GW.
Like China, Germany's success in the solar power market is helped by setting ambitious but achievable goals. The government have set a target to reach a 35% share of renewable electricity in the country, which Germany is on target to achieve, with the current share being around 31%. Other long term minimum targets include a 50% share by 2030 and 80% by 2050. More and more, Germany is producing more electricity than it requires, driving down spot-market prices and exporting the extra electricity to neighbouring countries.
Germany is not far behind China, whose solar power consists almost entirely of photovoltaics. Germany was the world leader of photovoltaic capacity since 2005, with a total installed capacity that added up to 40,490 megawatts by the end of September 2016. Photovoltaics are responsible for 6% of Germany's energy demands.
You wouldn't think that Germany has the second highest installed solar power capacity, especially when it's nowhere near the sunniest country in the world. But the substantial growth of solar power is largely due to Germany's feed-in tariffs for renewable energy, which were introduced by the German Renewable Energy Sources Act. Since 2006, prices have decreased by more than 50% in five years.
As the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, solar power is very important to Japan. The 2011 disaster at Fukushima has also nudged policy towards renewable energy. Since the late 1990’s, Japan's solar power capabilities have been increasing. It has long been a major photovoltaics (PV) manufacturer and is in the top five countries with the most domestic PV systems installed, with 4,914 MW installed by the end of 2011, with most of it grid connected.
With financial incentives such as feed-in tariff schemes, Germany can be seen as the country where solar energy is used the most. Emulating Germany’s actions and goals, the rest of the world can also benefit in their own development of solar power capacities.
Solar power by country. (2016, November 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:11, November 22, 2016.
Solar power in China. (2016, November 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:31, November 22, 2016.
In 2015, the United States used about 3,724,500 million kWh of electricity.
Most of us don’t have enough context to realize how big this number actually is, so here are some facts: First off, the US is the 2nd biggest user of electricity in the world (just behind Canada). Secondly, think about what exactly this number includes: all the electricity used in millions of homes across the US for air conditioning, lights, refrigerators, stoves, hot water, and all our devices, as well as factories, office buildings, data centers, agricultural applications, government offices, recreation centers, football fields, streetlights, and about a billion other things we don’t even think about on a daily basis.
With so much electricity being used and created every day, as a country we need to constantly assess if all this electricity is being created in the most responsible way, both monetarily and environmentally.Continue reading
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