Yikes, that’s a bit of a humiliating stat, isn’t it? I’ve covered this sort of thing previously, when comparing solar power capacity of various countries to TWh of electricity production, GDP, and per capita. At the end of 2011, Germany had over 39 times more solar power capacity per TWh of electricity production than the US, and it was second only to Italy. Relative to GDP, Germany had almost 24 times more solar power capacity than the US, and was second only to the Czech Republic. And per capita, Germany was #1 in the world, with about 21.6 times more solar power capacity per citizen than the US.
But, after seeing my Renewable Energy Big Pic: Part 2 post (Part 1 & Part 2 were full of graphs and charts), the good folks over at Energiewende Germany tweeted me this great chart (which seems to have been created by the German Energy Transition folks, using REN21 statistics):
I’m not going to lie, I love writing about the more or less exponential growth of solar power capacity in the US, but I’m also well aware of the fact that Germany is light years ahead of us in this arena. On the one hand, it’s a bit depressing. On the other hand, however, it’s inspiring and good proof that we could install a ton more solar power in the US without any major technical issues.
As pointed out several times now, solar power in Germany is much cheaper than solar power in the US, and studies have shown how that’s due to soft costs. The underlying problem is considered by some to be US solar incentives (good argument for that at that link) and just the fact that we have a much less mature market (as is obvious from the chart above).
How do we get to the level at which Germany now sits? I would probably agree with Jigar Shah that current US solar incentives are more of a hindrance than a help, and need to be cut. I would strongly support feed-in tariffs and PACE programs in more of the US. And I would simply say that solar companies need to invest more in creative, effective advertising that shows people it pays to go solar, it’s easy to go solar, and it feels good to go solar.
That’s my 2 cents. What do you think?
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on your favorite social network, go to: zacharyshahan.com