The World’s Brightest Lights

According to National Geographic, more power from the sun reaches the Earth in a single hour than can be used in an entire year.

Clearly, the star at the center of our solar system is also a star at the center of our solar power systems.

Solar energy is potentially a worldwide endeavor -- and some countries are on fire when it comes to harnessing that power.

Below, the top 4 countries currently in the game … and one to watch.

China

China is currently the world leader in renewable energy, and as of 2015 is the largest producer of solar panels.1 Most panels are installed in remote locations as part of huge solar farms that sell solar power to local utilities. China is currently building the world’s largest solar plant2 in the Gobi Desert. It is expected to produce enough solar energy for up to 1 million households. China currently has 43 GW cumulative installed PV capacity and plans to add another 15 GW in 2016.3 To put this into perspective, 1 GW provides enough energy for approximately 750,000 homes.

Germany

Germany is not exactly known for an abundance of sunny days, yet is still one of the world’s top solar installers. In fact, it was in first place until China took over in 2015. In June 2014, Germany broke three national solar records4 in two weeks, most notably meeting more than 50% of electricity demand for the first time. Germany currently has 40 GW of installed PV capacity.5

USA

2015 was a notable year for solar power in the United States, with residential installations increasing each quarter. Check this out -- the first quarter of 2015 increased 76%6 from the first quarter of 2014, despite crazy weather that included one of the worst winters ever recorded in the northeast. Overall, the U.S. market grew by 56% in 2015,7 adding an additional 9.8 GW.

Japan

After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011, Japan embraced solar energy and is now a major market for solar cells. Japan has been imaginative in the creation of solar plants --abandoned golf courses are now photovoltaic fields, and, as an island nation, Japan has also created floating solar islands8 with water-resistant panels.

One to watch: India

With an estimated 300 sunny days a year, India is embracing solar energy more than ever with the goal of producing 25% of energy from solar sources by 2030. Another goal is to raise solar capacity to 100 GW by 2022,9 which is 20 times its current production.

 

1 China is Utterly and Totally Dominating Solar Panels
By Katie Fehrenbacher, Fortune

2 China Builds Huge Solar Power Station Which Could Power a Million Homes
By Alexandra Sims, Independent

3 China to Increase Wind, Solar Power Capacity by 21% in 2016
By Feifei Shen, Bloomberg

4 Germany Breaks 3 Solar Power Records in 2 Weeks
By Zachary Shahan, Tree Hugger

5 China Overtakes Germany as World’s Leader in Solar Power Capacity
Agencia EFE

6 U.S. Residential Solar Market Grew 76% in First Quarter
By Joshua S. Hill, CleanTechnica

7 PV Market Alliance Estimates Global Photovoltaic Installations of at Least 51 GW in 2015
Solar Server

8 Giant Floating Solar Power Stations are Japan’s Newest Power Source
By Joseph Erbentraut, Huffington Post

9 The Future Looks Bright for Solar Power in India
By Nimisha Jaiswal, USA Today