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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

Last updated on: September 16, 2011 10:46 IST

Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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Solar power is of immense importance in modern times. With pollution breathing heavy on the present civilisation, it just cannot do without wind and solar energy. Countries across the world have geared up to develop alternative energy sources for better living.

India is densely populated and has high solar insolation, an ideal combination for using solar power. However, on the world map, India lags far behind other countries as far as generation of solar power is concerned, although the country has made significant progress in wind energy generation.

In July 2009, India unveiled a $19-billion plan to produce 20 GW of solar power by 2020.

Under the plan, the use of solar-powered equipment and applications would be made compulsory in all government buildings, as well as hospitals and hotels.

Let us take a look at the top 10 countries using solar power.

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Image: Some of the 70,000 solar panels generating electricity for US Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photographs: Airman 1st Class Nadine Y Barclay/US Air Force/Handout/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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1. Germany
Total use: 10,000 megawatts

Germany is the world leader in solar energy.

Germany is expected to stay the top buyer of solar panels through 2011.

Germany has a goal of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050.

In 2009 alone, Germany installed 3,806 megawatts of photovoltaics solar energy capacity, which is more than Spain's total capacity and almost eight times more than what the US installed recently.

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Image: A car is reflected on a solar panel in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife.
Photographs: Santiago Ferrero/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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2. Spain
Total use: 3,500 MW

Spain was the world leader in newly installed PV solar energy (2,605 MW) in 2008 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 programme and a decrease in energy demand due to the economic crisis.

With expectations that both of these will improve in 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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Image: The solar panels of a bioclimatic house are seen next to windmills.
Photographs: Santiago Ferrero/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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3. Japan
Total use: 2,700 MW

Japan has high national solar energy goal's to achieve 28 GW by 2020 and 53 GW by 2030.

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 that year.

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Image: A woman is silhouetted next to a solar panel display by solar module supplier in Tokyo.
Photographs: Yuriko Nakao/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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4. United States
Total use: 1,800 MW

Supportive state-level policies are a major driver of growth of solar energy 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.

The cap on the federal solar tax credit was lifted in 2009, promoting growth in this industry.

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Image: A man touches a display of the Global Solar Energy's PowerFLEX BIPV flexible solar module in Tokyo.
Photographs: Yuriko Nakao/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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5. Italy
Total use: 1,300 MW

In 2009, Italy had 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.

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Image: A prototype sun tracking solar panel.
Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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6. Czech Republic
Total use: 600 MW

A generous FiT and simple administrative procedures have put the Czech Republic on this list.

The market growth has probably boomed unsustainably, 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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Image: The 'Beam Down' tower is reflected in a solar panel (left) in Masdar City, near Abu Dhabi.
Photographs: Jumana El-Heloueh/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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7. Belgium
Total use: 450 MW

Belgium is a bit of a 2011 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.'

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Image: People stand on the world's largest solar-powered boat in Cancun.
Photographs: Gerardo Garcia/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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8. China
Total use: 400 MW

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 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.

According to a recent PTI report, China is marching well ahead of all of them when it comes to capturing the solar market.

China's solar energy budget still stands roughly 20 times larger than America's investment in the same period, Jonathan Silver, executive director, Department of Energy told US lawmakers recently.

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Image: A general view of a solar plant.
Photographs: Marcelo Del Pozo/Reuters
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Solar power use: Top 10 countries

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9. France
Total use: 350 MW

France has a well-designed FiT for building-integrated photovoltaics, 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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Image: A worker checks solar panels on the roof of a building in Hong Kong Electric Lamma island power unit
Photographs: Siu Chiu/Reuters
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10. India
Total use: 200 MW

India has fast-increasing electricity demand and it has very high sun irradiation levels. Its government has also been moving forward strongly on clean energy.

The country has a goal to reach 20 GW by 2020 as well.

India could quickly rise higher on this list with proper government strategies.


Image: A labourer checks the solar panel of a street light at a solar housing complex in Kolkata.
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters
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