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Clean Power germany italy spain us solar PV capacity compared to electricity demand

Published on December 19th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

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Chart: German PV Capacity = 50% Of Peak Summer Demand; US PV Capacity = 0.5% Of Peak Summer Demand

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December 19th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan 

 
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):

germany italy spain us solar PV capacity compared to electricity demand

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?

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Christian Roselund

    If you say “solar electric” then you need to include both PV and CSP. The figures you cite are for PV only, and if you add CSP then Spain’s share is roughly double.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Good point.

  • Jigar Shah

    The USA does not want to lead on energy deployment, only energy innovation. Now that wind and solar are so affordable, you will see 50% of peak energy coming from solar on sunny days in the USA by 2022

  • Pieter Siegers

    I think that if the USA would only cut to zero the immense fossil fuel subsidies and invest this in renewables then you would soon be out of serious problems and showing the world a much better example then what you’re doing now (if anything). I’d say goodbye to big oil and say hello to renewables a long time ago if I were you.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Yep,.. if only… unfort., they’ve got their loyal guards in Congress preventing this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.t.peffly Matthew Todd Peffly

    Another item is the HOA templates used in a lot of the country that rules out PV. It based of the big solar water heaters from the 70s. But the rules are there and getting a change to a HOA agreement is hard than pulling teeth.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      I would not be unhappy if HOAs were given to Mars for Christmas.

  • StefanoR99

    Need FITS and PACE. Current system is open to abuse from installers – they just jack up their prices to take any government incentives on offer for extra profit.

  • Bob_Wallace

    FiT and PACE. All the way.

    With the guaranteed price of a feed-in tariff the system owner is motivated to get system costs as low as possible.

    Lower system costs = higher profit.

    Potential higher profit = more effort in getting costs down.

    Pushing prices down for a few systems = lower system prices for all.

    PACE. Give people access to federal/state funds for financing and bypass the vultures.

  • Peter Lynch

    Zach – you are absolutely right – the obvious answers are FIT’s and PACE. Both are proven to work and FIT’s are the fastest, cheapest and ONLY proven way to dramatically accelerate the growth of renewables

    http://www.principalsolarinstitute.org/uploads/custom/3/_documents/Feed-In_Tariffs.pdf

  • http://www.facebook.com/ralph.ciarlanti Ralph Ciarlanti III

    I think as solar installations continue to grow here in the U.S., competition will help to drive down installation labor costs, and the cost of PV panels. Would love to figure out a way to reduce the red tape related costs. Like the idea of a plug and play device. I think I know a company getting ready to launch such a device.

  • Dimitar Mirchev

    I think that most of the PV in the USA will soon come from plug-and-play DIY photovoltaics. Since the installers charge that much and the bureaucracy is insane.

    But that wont be registered in the statistics since it will be mainly behind the meter – for self consumption. The peak demand during the summer will start to diminish.

    • David Fuchs

      Solar as an appliance would help. As would having these available at Lowe’s or home depot for the week end home repair – self install type. We need solar as an appliance – DIY that is in the 4-8 kW range that can be plugged into a 220 volt outlet. It needs to be plug and play only needing an electrician for the 220 v outlet.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I really doubt that.

      Not many people are going to climb on their roofs and attach solar panels and then run the wiring. You can’t put a bunch of panels on your roof and hook them up with extension cords. (Well, you could but your insurance company isn’t going to be happy.)

      As installation costs come down, as they are doing, the plug and play market will likely shrink. Germany is installing at $2/watt. Total system, labor and everything and those prices will continue to drop.

      If people want to save some bucks they could purchase the parts and provide their own labor, but not many will and the volume purchasing advantages of large installers might cancel out the labor savings.

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