This short post will compare two countries to showcase what is possible with solar energy technology. The two countries in question are Japan and the fictitious nation of “Gertalia.”
Japan is of course a pioneer in solar technology. Perhaps the country will even become a rising star of solar energy once again after the Japanese government’s decision to adopt an aggressive Feed-in Tariff law modeled after the German example that will go into force on July 1st. There is little doubt that this decision will boost solar power installations tremendously, but the question is how much and how fast?
“Gertalia” is obviously an imaginary country which is the result of squashing Germany and Italy together, something the earth has been working on for millions of years by pushing the tectonic plates in that direction.
Why compare Japan and “Gertalia”?
Because they “almost” have the same population, a similar-sized modern economy with a strong and diverse manufacturing base, and… they even look “slightly” similar on the map (needs a little imagination).
As you can see, both “countries” also consume about the same amount of electricity every year. They also have a very similar portion of conventional hydroelectric power production in their power generation mix. But when it comes to electricity generation from other renewable sources, they are worlds apart. In fact, in 2011, “Gertalia” produced more electricity from solar energy than Japan did from all non-hydro renewable sources!
A Different Look at Numer One, Two, & Three
Last year, Germany, Italy and Japan were the three leading countries when it comes to total photovoltaic power capacity. While being in third place doesn’t sound too bad, the Japan–”Gertalia” comparison paints a very clear picture, especially considering the fact that Japan was number one until 2004, even ahead of Germany by 30 MW!
Japan certainly has a long way to catch up, but the aggressive FiT should be more than helpful. Considering that predictions of renewable energy growth tend to underestimate what’s possible, we might all be in for a surprise as to how fast Japan will crank up solar installations, especially when there is so much untapped renewable energy potential.
As for Gertalia, the near future is a bit uncertain. Earlier this year, the German and Italian governments proposed deep cuts to solar FiTs. On the other hand, both governments also faced resistance and had to paddle back on their cuts recently. While we might not see an additional 16.8 GW in Gertalia this year, it could still end up being in the territory of 10 GW.
I am a close observer of the renewable energy revolution in my home country Germany and around the world. As a full-blooded enthusiast, I spend a lot of my spare time reading about the technological, political, social and cultural developments that drive the renewable energy revolution and their benefits to society. I studied media & computer science at university and work as a freelance graphic / interface designer. I love visualizing complex information, data, & the relationships that connect them to our world.