Earlier this year reports were released that 3 GW of new solar power were installed in Germany during the month of December alone. This marked a new record for solar capacity installed in a single month in Germany and doubts were cast on the accuracy of the news. Many craftsmen and companies of the solar industry voiced their skepticism since they didn’t notice the kind of increased activity that would have been required to accomplish such a record.
To put the 3,000 MW in December into context, the entire solar industry of the US installed a total of 1,855 MW of new capacity in the entire year of 2011.
Now, weeks of speculation have come to an end as the German Federal Network Agency has confirmed its earlier assessment by releasing its final report on new solar installations during the 4th quarter of 2011.
According to the report, solar capacity did actually increase by 2,983 MW in December alone. This report also confirmed an annual solar power capacity increase of 7,482 MW in Germany.
Besides confirming the numbers of the estimates, the report also shed some light on the record months of December. As the reports shows, all kinds of solar projects were significantly up compared to previous months. The installed capacity increased across the board, from small rooftop solar with 3-kW installations, to huge multi-MW solar farms.
Solar power plants greater than 1 MW increased even more so compared to 2010. The market segment for these relatively “huge” solar power projects had a very significant spike in December…. While other segments were up by 200-400% compared to the average value of the previous 11 months, projects 1 MW or larger were up 12x! That pushed about 70% of the installed capacity of that market segment in 2011 into the month of December. I think that showcased quite a strategic move on the part of project developers — low installations during the first half of 2011 to keep cuts to the FiT in July rather low, and then connecting as many projects as possible in December. That’s my thought on it, at least.
What does this new record mean for the solar industry in Germany?
That’s difficult to tell at this moment. The success of the industry and the spread of individual energy autonomy has lead to a serious blowback from the fossil & nuclear lobby and their political allies within the current conservative government. This has been building up since October 2011 and followed the usual playbook of anti-renewable agitation. How hard the industry and the technology will be hit in the coming months is still uncertain. But one thing is certain:
December 2011 proved, once again, that decentralized renewables energy systems can be installed faster than most people are told to believe.