Clean Power

Published on August 19th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Germany Breaks Monthly Solar Generation Record, ~6.5 Times More Than US Best

August 19th, 2013 by  

I live in Poland, which (for the geographically indifferent) is right next to Germany. Actually, the city where I live, Wrocław, was once part of Germany, and it’s now just a couple hours to the German border from here. From living in this city for 5 years, I can tell you one thing with great emphasis: this is one super-grey area of the world. Actually, the weather at the moment reminds me of winter weather in Florida (my home state). I was looking at a lot of solar irradiation maps and stats just yesterday, and I happened to notice that Florida gets about twice as much average sunshine per day as Wrocław — I’m sure it’s the same across Germany. So, really, I am stunned when I think about how much solar power the country is producing relative to other countries (especially relative to the humungous and sunny USA).

Germany solar power recordIt was just reported the other day that Germany has broken its monthly solar power generation record yet again. (This follows a couple of record-breaking days in terms of solar output, news about the first of which was broken by CleanTechnica, and the second of which is noted in the chart on the right.) In July, the super-grey country rose above 5.1 TWh of electricity from solar panel systems. That’s according to the latest data from the EEX Transparency Platform.

That actually beats the 5 TWh of electricity from wind turbines that the country logged in January (it’s also a wind power leader, in case you weren’t aware).

More emphatically, that crushes the 0.764 TWh of electricity solar PV and solar thermal systems produced in the US in May 2013 (the latest month for which we have data) as well as the 0.522 TWh produced in the US in July 2012.

If we assume the US got the same amount of sunshine in July 2013 as in July 2012, and that solar power capacity grew by the same proportion between May 2013 and July 2013 as between May 2012 and July 2012, the US net generation total for solar PV and solar thermal in July 2013 should equal about 0.780 TWh. In other words, despite having a ton more sun (see the maps below) and being larger geographically than all of Europe, the US generated about 6.5 times less electricity from solar power than Germany did in July. Stunning. Depressing. Motivating….


solar resources map NREL

In terms of total solar power capacity per capita, Germany crushes every other country. At the end of 2012, it had approximately 400 MW of solar power capacity per million people, considerably more than #2 Italy at 267 MW per million people, #3 Belgium at 254 MW per million people, #4 Czech Republic at 204 MW per million, and #5 Greece at 143 MW per million people. The US came it at #20 with about 25 MW per million people (quite pitiful when put into this perspective). The top solar state (per capita) in the US at the end of 2012 was Arizona, which had about 167 MW of solar power per capita (and would have ranked #5 if it were a country).

Getting back to Germany’s new solar power record, sunny weather and increased solar power capacity raised the country’s July 2013 output about 42% over its July 2012 output.

Another wonderful thing to note about Germany’s massive solar power capacity is that it’s mostly on the roofs of homes and businesses. Furthermore, the massive increase in solar panel installations in the country has brought down the price of solar considerably, making it nearly half as much as in the US, despite higher labor costs.

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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.

  • dhm60

    It’s always embarrassing as an Australian to study at a global solar irradiance map and reflect on how poorly Australia is doing in an area where it should lead the world – solar power. The “benefits” of having an economy so wedded to coal/gas and so many politicians in the fossil fuel industry’s pocket, I suppose.
    Germany (and the world) have a lot to thank the Rote-Grüne Koalition of the 1990s for; as it was their Renewable Energy Sources Act and its mandated feed-in tariffs that drove the change. The rest was down to the accepted brilliance of German engineers.
    (Some good news today – the state of South Australia has just produced 47% of its power from wind.)

    • Bob_Wallace

      Solar is getting on like gangbusters in AU. You’ve got the installed price of residential roof-top down to $2/watt, which is great!

      One of your large utility company has just announced that they want to close 9 GW of coal generation. They simply no longer need it. That’s a honking big piece of success.

      (I think you’ve got one state that’s lagging, something like our SE states.)

  • M_Bailey

    It’s important to note that wholesale distributed generation (WDG), larger distributed solar systems that serve not only on-site but also local electricity demand, has been critical to the German energy transition. Germany’s solar market, which is now large enough to meet half the country’s midday energy needs and roughly 5 percent of annual electrical demand, is dominated by WDG brought online through feed-in tariffs. A full 80 percent of Germany’s solar capacity is on rooftops, highlighting that distributed renewables – not larger utility-scale renewables – are powering Germany’s solar energy transformation.

    Germany has made great strides in streamlining the process of bringing clean local energy online through, making its solar market decidedly more efficient than the U.S. solar market. Fortunately, forward-thinking utilities in the U.S. are already leading the charge by streamlining the development of cost-effective DG through CLEAN Programs.

    Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest city, recently rolled out its CLEAN LA Solar Program to bring 100 megawatts (MW) of local solar online. Since opening the first 20 MW tranche in February, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) has received applications totaling more than 115 MW – signaling strong demand for solar DG and correct pricing. To the east, Georgia Power – an investor-owned utility serving more than two million customers – is bringing 190 MW of cost-effective, local solar power online in its service territory by 2016 through a CLEAN Programs. Also this month, Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) expanded its Clean Solar Initiative from 50 MW to 150 MW, sending yet another signal that WDG is a readily available and cost-effective market segment.

    With the U.S.’s vast solar resources, there’s no question that solar energy is a viable resource. By implementing smart policies like CLEAN Programs, the United States can quickly and cost-effectively accelerate the transition to clean local energy.

    • James Johnson

      Solar WDG in America is nothing more than an Energy Cartel run solar initiative with the local user of the produced energy getting raped while a greedy select few are reaping a dividend and taking more money from the Taxpayer through back door payoffs, while the nations credit card of pyramid money can still be tapped.

      The road that this paves will end with regional Energy Lords as America’s national debt will lead us into poverty as a nation. No longer doing anything for the national good of what once was a great nation united in common cause and belief in the Constitution, slowly becoming the fictional nation of Panem of the Hunger Games.

      Germany solar WDG is working for them only for the reason that they have money and the will of a nation to succeed, despite the fact that the US Federal Pyramid Reserve refuses to surrender Germany’s requested 640 tons of Gold.

  • sukilee

    this is a good oppotunity to learn about diffrent aspect of inverter

    China inverter

  • zdlax

    “They got a lot more sun there, don’t they?”

  • de co

    Germany has once again broken its monthly record of solar power. In July, over gray country rose more than 510 million kwh of electricity from solar panel system

  • The Sunshine state of Florida is ranked lower than the states in the Northeast… the gulf oil industry has a financial say in influencing lawmakers in Florida…. not because it isn’t sunny there….

    • FL has all sorts of political problems… a lot of which stem from having a rich, old population.

  • Marcel Den Ouden

    Most solar panels become less efficient when they get hot, and desert sand on them does not work very well either. So solar panels work quite well in moderate climate. The rain cleans them regularly. Swapping oil/gas dependency for another one is not want you want. And there’s also a case for producing electricity where it is used to prevent expensive grid upgrades. I thank my neighbors from Germany as they have pioneered this, and they’ve brought down the price of a system, so we in Holland can also install them for a reasonable price. No additional government support necessary anymore except for net metering. Now let’s add storage, smart grids and Tesla’s!

    • Bob_Wallace

      Thin-film panels work better in heat than silicon panels.

      “PV module Degradation: One partnering PV module manufacturer recently retested PV modules which had been in service in Tucson for 28 months to test for dirt and time related output degradation. Modules were tested first without cleaning and then after cleaning.

      Results indicated soiling effect was less than 1% output degradation from modules which had not been cleaned in two years and overall time related degradation of clean modules much less than that expected. 9,000 of these modules are used in the SGS solar system. SGS modules have historically been cleaner than Tucson located modules due to no oily deposits and the ability of snow to very effectively remove solid deposits like bird droppings.”

      And if they do need cleaning someone has built a panel cleaning robot that first dry brushes them and then spot cleans if necessary.

      • Marcel Den Ouden

        Interesting, so thin film would be better for hot countries… I only see silicon over here currently but that surely has to do with pricing.

        The cleaning indeed seems something we don’t need to worry about in most areas, except maybe in some areas were the roofs are really covered with sand after a storm. Also depends on the angle at which they are mounted I guess.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Google did a study of their panels and found that flat-mounted panels need cleaning from time to time. Even a 5 degree tilt let the dirt wash off.

          Ever since we assembled a 1.6 MW solar panel installation at our headquarters in Mountain View in 2007, we’ve been wondering, “Does cleaning the solar panels make them more effective?” We thought it might, but we needed to be sure. So we analyzed the mountains of data that we collect about the energy that these panels produce — after rain, after cleaning and at different times of the year.

          We have two different sets of solar panels on our campus — completely flat ones installed on carports, and rooftop ones that are tilted.

          Since the carport solar panels have no tilt, rain doesn’t do a good job of rinsing off the dirt they collect. (Also, our carports are situated across from a sand field, which doesn’t help the situation.) We cleaned these panels for the first time after they had been in operation for 15 months, and their energy output doubled overnight. When we cleaned them again eight months later, their output instantly increased by 36 percent. In fact, we found that cleaning these panels is the #1 way to maximize the energy they produce. As a result, we’ve added the carport solar panels to our spring cleaning checklist.

          The rooftop solar panels are a different story. Our data indicates that rain does a sufficient job of cleaning the tilted solar panels. Some dirt does accumulate in the corners, but the resulting reduction in energy output is fairly small — and cleaning tilted panels does not significantly increase their energy production. So for now, we’ll let Mother Nature take care of cleaning our rooftop.

      • Bob, aren’t thin film amorphous panels lower producing per square foot of space though? A few years back I would have needed double the space vs pv modules…

    • sean

      the magic temperature seems to be about 40C, higher and efficiency erodes faster

      the ideal location for solar is up in the mountains, very high irradiance, and cool climate.

    • sean

      Everyone loves solar as any idiot can put one up and get the same efficiency as a huge farm. However it is still hugely expensive when compared to wind

      Go halvesies on a 3MW wind turbine with your neighbours sell the excess

      • Ronald Brakels

        Because wind competes with wholesale electricity prices while rooftop solar competes with generally much higher retail electricity prices this makes solar the cheapest source of electricity for a huge number of people. Where I live wholesale electricity prices would have to be negative to make rooftop solar non-competitive.

    • MorinMoss

      So go with solar thermal out in the desert.
      Brightsource Ivanpah’s 377 MW facility should be going online soon.

    • the moother

      That’s no excuse for Murca lagging so far behind… They’re just anti anything “green” and, as a nation, prefer not to take the environment into consideration as a matter of principle.

      • James Johnson

        LoL … has nothing to do with anti green. Many American’s no longer have disposible income. Going green initial costs are expensive, to say otherwise is to ignore greed.

    • James Johnson

      If the desert is such a horrible place to build solar… why are electric companies building massive photovoltaic complexes in the Mohave Desert of Southern California currently?

    • jfreed27

      Then there is solar thermal or passive reflective energy that would not degrade at higher remps

  • S.Nkm

    It’s awesome news but I can’t help feeling bitter that all that hardware has been installed in a sunless country (do not believe certain mainstream media statements about Germany being a lot sunnier than the US), instead of a place where it would be used to its full potential. What a waste.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well, since solar reduced Germany’s wholesale price of electricity in 2012 by 5 billion euros and is allowing them to close coal plants I suspect Germans do not agree that their country is “sunless”.

      If other countries want to install solar, there are plenty panels available. It certainly isn’t the case that supply is limited. Germany didn’t hog panels.

      (As for your media reports – perhaps you misread.)

      • S.Nkm

        I interpreted “one super-grey area” as sunless.

        The few sunny days Germany gets break production records and make the news, but that hardware installed in, say Italy or the US, would do that most days. The amount of energy lost because of the location is enormous, although I didn’t do the math. That other country would probably follow the electricity price pattern Germany has, so that point doesn’t count.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I totally agree that a solar panel installed in southern Europe will generate more electricity over a year than one installed in northern Europe.

          A very big case can be made for installing a lot of solar in southern Europe, North Africa, and the Mideast and sending electricity to Europe.

          But it’s also the case that what sunshine there is in northern Europe often occurs exactly when air conditioners are sucking in the electricity.

          Germany is in the spotlight because it established a more robust subsidy program and pulled ahead of other countries in terms of installed solar. It’s not the best solar site in the world, but Germany is showing us the way and has greatly contributed to the lowering of panel prices. If solar pays in Germany then it is going to pay almost everywhere else.

          • Matt

            Also while you can build big solar farms in southern Europe and NA and big transmission lines to carry it north to central/northern Europe. That doesn’t give the power to individual’s and small towns that the current approach has created.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suspect this “power to individuals” thing is something that will pass.

            When there’s enough solar on the grid to service sunny-hour demand the price of daytime electricity will fall. We’re already seeing that in Germany with only a modest amount of solar on the grid.

            The larger grid is going to have late night wind ‘for cheap’ and all the solar it can use. I suspect they’ll move to TOU billing, charge little for late night wind and sunny hour solar, then make their money off the non-Sun/wind hours.

            I think the lucrative FiT for end-user solar will become a thing of the past. It’s role is about completed in places like Germany. The solar industry is established and installation costs have been brought down to very reasonable levels.

            I suspect the grid will be able to supply the storage and backup that solar owners will need for less than they can provide themselves. The grid will have cheap wind and hydro. And the grid will more likely be able to use the cheapest storage such as pump-up hydro, flow batteries and (possibly) liquid metal batteries that just won’t be usable at the end-user level.

        • Malaclypse

          Germany has had at most 10-15 cloudy days since late may – at least where i live. You can check projected daily outputs here:

          With the exception of the last two days, peak output was consistently above 16-18GW since late spring.

    • Dan Hue

      I see it differently. The fact that typically gray sky Germany is successfully transitioning to renewables is a testament to what can be done under even better conditions. Also the fact that they can install PV for less than $2/W when we (in the US) can’t for less than $4 adds insult to injury.

      • S.Nkm

        You make a good point.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Germany is the 5’1″ guy who can dunk.

        That should make all the six footers try a lot harder.

        • eject

          As usual we Germans are armed with a mixture of over ambition and over confidence in our doing. This is often perceived as arrogance and ignorance by others.

          Someone did have to start going big on this solar thing. This is mainly still technology from the 70s that needed to be introduced to the economics of scale. In the end PV will be all over the world. It is just so bloody simple and effortless.

        • Haha, excellent analogy. 😀

      • James Johnson

        Your dilusional if you believe Americans are not moving out of spite to Solar. Don’t listen to our state sponsered media. Americans are installing Solar despite the fact that many more Americans no longer have a disposable income to make the change. America has a 17 Triilion Dollar Debt after all, that should tell you everything you need to be aware. Last time I checked Germany was bailing out Greece which most likely has few Solar installed for a country that has more Sun.

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