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Published on January 29th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Top Solar Power States vs Top Solar Power Countries (CleanTechnica Exclusive)



I think you all are going to love this one. But before getting into the numbers and charts, here’s one quick caveat on the ranking below: my solar power installation data for the countries was for the end of 2011, whereas my solar power installation data for the states (courtesy of GTM Research, via Scott Burger) was for the end of Q3 2012. So, basically, the states had a 9-month advantage (which can be rather significant when it comes to solar — the fastest growing energy industry).

With that out of the way, let’s take a look out how the top solar power countries in the world (per capita) compare to the top solar power states (per capita):

Below’s a longer list. But it’s a bit more difficult to read in this post, so click here view the image in full size:

Here are the actual numbers:

There are many factors that go into making a state or country a solar power leader — policy, solar insolation, electricity rates, etc. — but I think the list above shows that the strongest factor today is policy. With strong feed-in tariff policies, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Belgium have a strong lead (even with a 9-month disadvantage compared to the American states). An EU-wide cap and trade system that puts a price on fossil fuel pollution is also a help.

In the US, Arizona and New Jersey have had strong net metering policies as well as Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that have encouraged solar adoption. New Jersey’s RPS includes a specific requirement for solar, which it has aimed to achieve through the use of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). Arizona dropped its solar requirement in its RPS years ago, but it has a distributed generation requirement, which has led it to encourage home solar power through net metering (mentioned above), tax credits, and rebates. Meanwhile, Hawaii, with very high electricity prices (the highest in the US) and good solar insolation, has become the first state in the US to hit solar grid parity. Hawaii has also implemented solar tax credits, a feed-in tariff, and net metering. However, as SEIA notes, “interconnection continues to be an issue as Hawaiian utilities have imposed restrictions to avoid solar generators exceeding 15% of load on their systems.” So, you can see that, even in leading solar power states, there are big hurdles to overcome.

Of course, there are other ways to calculate relative leadership in solar power. Instead of comparing solar power capacity to population, we could compare it to GDP, electricity production, or other factors. If you want to help me create more solar power rankings, drop a comment below!

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Creative Energies

    Where’s Wyoming on these charts? We’ve been installing here for 12 years and can account for at least 2 MW of installation alone. Our population is much lower than that of Poland, so I suspect we belong somewhere above them on this chart.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      hmm, Wyoming wasn’t on the list GTM Research gave me. Looks like they went down to 4 MW.

  • rhoneyman

    nicely done. it might also be helpful to run a statistic comparing effective solar capacity to total consumption.

  • Dude

    NUmbers are outdated. Germany has now more than 32 GWp installed solar capacity.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Yep, that is noted right at the beginning of the article. As soon as EOY 2012 data for all these countries is available, I’ll try to put together an update. :D

  • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

    Wow, well done Zach…

  • Kate

    Then that data is in complete, if off grid is not complie it not a captured figure. You can’t say that on grid solar power is a true representation with out the other applying to the data.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      On-grid is, by far, the majority of solar power. Off-grid data isn’t generally collected, so isn’t available.

  • Shiggity

    Awesome data Zachary. I hate to ask for more, but could you also break down these numbers into residential / commercial / utility?

    • jimmy

      What about the data of off grid stand alone to on grid?

      • Shiggity

        Unless you’re connecting to the grid, you don’t have to report that number to any official body. Off grid solar is much harder to quantify, but still relatively low because batteries are still pretty expensive.

        India, Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines are markets to watch for off-grid development. These areas have high populations but very little grid access for many people.

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          yeah, quite frankly, i don’t think we’ll ever have good off-grid numbers for such analysis. but i’m sure the market will expand significantly as batteries get cheaper and entrepreneurs find new ways to break into developing markets. currently, solar beats other options in most of the places, but financing and social barriers are keeping it from booming.

      • Warren

        Jimmy, really good question, most of the data here is based on main grid connections solar power; I too would like to see what percentage of the world has converted to off grid solar power systems, I was made aware today that electric power company traded on the market on 29/1/2013 over $585.63 AUD MW & $879.87AUD MW in Queensland Australia compare to US $10-25 MW USD, if that price continue, the population without solar power would have to go to an off grid system, they couldn’t afford electricity at that price. The was a report that 800,000 homes in Germany & Australia couldn’t afford electricity.

        Just what would happen to the USA economy if they traded at those prices like that in Australia.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        i’m not sure if GTM Research has it broken down like that. and pretty positive the country data isn’t. but can check about the US data.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      ha. :D i’m not sure how much GTM Research is willing to give me to share, but can check about it.

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