Clean Power

Published on March 16th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Germany: 80 Times More Peak Solar Power than U.S. Compared to Electricity Demand

March 16th, 2012 by  

Update: Beyond the interesting facts below, new analyses have noted that Germany has:

Once 2012 data is in for the US, we’ll do updated analyses, and my guess is that the difference between the US and Germany in this arena will only grow. On to the original post….

Beyond the above posts and the information below, if you’re interested in solar power in Germany or the US, you may also gain something from: “10 Huge Lessons We’ve Learned From Solar Power Success In Germany.”

I ran across this interesting statistic the other day and wanted to comment on it and some of the differences between German and U.S. solar energy policy. (This is the post I hinted at in my piece on the 2011 U.S. Solar Market Insight report yesterday.)

First of all, some more stats:

  • As of sometime in the first half of 2011, Germany has had over 20% of its electricity supply coming from renewable energy sources.
  • By 2011, its installed solar photovoltaics capacity was 25 GW.
  • In the U.S., cumulative PV capacity nearly hit 4 GW last year.
  • Solar power peaked at 40% of power demand in Germany last summer.
  • In the U.S., solar peaked at 0.5% of electricity demand last summer.
  • In other words, as stated in the title of this piece, compared to peak electricity demand, Germany has 80 times more solar PV on the grid.

So, basically, while the U.S. is now considered the most attractive country in the world for solar power, by far (by Ernst & Young, at least), and everyone in the industry has its eye on the U.S. and/or is trying to get a big foot in the door, taking a look at solar energy capacity compared to electricity demand should be humbling.

Now, the thing I noted yesterday, in that U.S. Solar Market Insight post, is that the majority of U.S. solar power growth has been in the utility-scale and commercial-scale solar categories. Additionally, that’s expected to continue, as a number of large CSP plants are in the pipeline and current trends in the PV sector are expected to continue along the same lines, as well.

On the other hand, “80 percent of the solar installed in Germany was on rooftops and built to a local scale (100 kilowatts or smaller – the roof of a church or a Home Depot store),” John noted several months ago.

Putting 2 and 2 together, Germany has put solar panels on a ton more of its houses than the U.S. That’s decentralized solar power than benefits citizens even more than centralized solar power. Imagine if the U.S. were more ambitious about decentralizing our electric grid and putting more solar panels on homes and small businesses…. Well, if you remember John’s post from October, we could power the entire U.S. with rooftop solar by 2026.

h/t Renewables International

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Paul Kangas

    Germany now has 444,000 people working in the solar field. Double what is working in the Auto industry. Solar is winning the jobs making battle. Germany is now the greenest nation on earth.

  • Paul Kangas

    The key tool the German’s use to win the solar race, is the Feed-in tariff, which requires Utilities to pay $0.54 kwh for 20 years to home owners & farmers. Every home has become a Utility.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Yes, Germany cleverly used the power of the market to drive down the cost of solar. I don’t know what the cost of installing solar was when they first started the program but it must have been low enough to allow people to make some profit at 54 cents.

      And since the cheaper the install, the more profit possible.

      That caused people to seek the best prices where our system of net metering just allowed people to wipe out their electricity bill. Without the owner/profit angle pressure has not been as great to lower costs.

      As prices of installed solar have dropped in Germany they have lowered the FiT for new systems. As of this month the maximum FiT is 15 cents/kWh with some systems receiving only 10 cents.

  • rdt

    Well in Germany houses use to be built from stone, concrete, bricks and metal. Only the roof construction under the tiles is made of wood usually. For that reason, houses in Germany use not to fly away when some wind blows, as it is normal in the US of A. And, i would not want to install a Photovoltaic set on one of the usual american wood huts – they would be statically overcharged and there is a severe risk of burns when something cracks underneath.. However, there´s enough space beside the huts, and when the construction carrying the PV panels is rugged enough (as we in Germany use to build them), then the house will be gone in next wind but one can find shelter under the still erect PV plant.

    • ECL

      In Florida, houses are built that way. Stone and cinder block with only a wooden roof. But who’s to say they wind won’t rip off your roof (the weakest point of your house in a windstorm) and your PV plant with it?

  • 9% of total energy production today 😀
    Solar peaked at about 16.3 GW at 12 o’clock (25% of the 66GW total production)
    That means that conventional power output remained at the off-peak level below 50 GW all day…Somebody couldn’t sell their coal & gas today *hi hi* 😉

    • Bob_Wallace

      “Somebody couldn’t sell their coal & gas today *hi hi* ;)”

      And since reactors couldn’t shut down when panels were pumping they probably had to sell at a loss which drives up their cost of operation….

      • Indeed.
        If they do not succeed in stopping this developement (which they desperatly try right now with all their lobbyist powers), there will be a rather swift shift toward decentralized Gasturbine powerplants (owned by community utilitites) and there will be many ruins of hard-coal powerplants that are being build by E.On, RWE, Vattenfall, DOW Chemical, …

        When more decentralization takes place, renewables become more economically. When you got a factory and operate a local windfarm/biogas plant / PV-Solar… you can produce electricity 24/7 below the cost of electricity from the grid… Full autonomy, total price stability.

        I should add, that at that peak-load time today, Germany was a net-exporteur of electricity with a balance of -3 GW.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Was that France buying green German power again?

    • 😀

  • Ross

    You could double the disparity if you accounted for the lower average insolation Germany gets compared to the USA. The Germans have to work twice as hard for their solar.

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