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Germany's solar power output surged 60% in 2011 and renewable energy overall rose to account for just shy of 20% of national electricity production. While German solar power industry participants are facing stiff challenges - substantial solar feed-in tariff cuts will be coming into effect in 2012 and a global glut of solar PV modules is putting serious pressure on margins - other factors support a fundamentally sound outlook for the sector in 2012 and beyond.

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German Solar Power Production Surges 60%; Renewables 20% of Total Electricity Supply

Germany’s solar power output surged 60% in 2011 and renewable energy overall rose to account for just shy of 20% of national electricity production. While German solar power industry participants are facing stiff challenges – substantial solar feed-in tariff cuts will be coming into effect in 2012 and a global glut of solar PV modules is putting serious pressure on margins – other factors support a fundamentally sound outlook for the sector in 2012 and beyond.

Graphic courtesy BSW (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft)

Germany’s solar energy output surged 60% to 18 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2011, accounting for more than 3% of national electricity generation, national industry association Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW) announced yesterday. Solar energy is producing enough electricity to power some 5.1 million households, about 1/8 the number in the entire state of Thuringia, according to a Reuters News report.

The heady performance was achieved even as German solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers have experienced increasing pressures from a glut of low-priced solar panels coming out of China, and reductions in Germany’s solar feed-in tariff (FiT) rates, which will fall 15% on January 1 and another 9% in mid-2012. That’s led to some industry turmoil. A second German solar PV manufacturer, Solar Millennium, recently followed Solon into insolvency proceedings.

Nonetheless, Germany’s solar power industry looks to be in fundamentally sound shape going forward, as the European Union’s largest economy is in the early stages of shutting down its nuclear power plants. Scheduled to be completed in 2022, this should underpin investments in solar and other forms of renewable energy, raising renewable energy’s share of national electricity output as high as 40%.

Though not known for its sunny climate, solar PV and thermal energy have proved themselves in Germany. Proactive government support has been leveraged by the private sector in forging Germany into a world-leading solar power market and industry. That’s led the sector to become an anchor of employment and economic growth as the country continues to lead the world in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

“Solar energy has become an indispensable ingredient of a successful energy strategy shift,” Managing Director Carsten Koernig said in a statement.

Solar PV power was the fastest growing of all German renewable energy economic segments in 2011, accounting for 3.2% of renewable energy output as opposed to 1.9% in 2010. Overall, renewable energy accounted for 19.9% of German power production in 2011, according to preliminary totals, as compared to 16.4% in 2010.

 
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I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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