Germany Continues Leadership in Solar Energy
The German solar market continued to outpace every single other country by a landslide. According to Reuters, Germany will add an impressive 8 gigawatt (GW) of photovoltaic capacity, bringing the total solar capacity to between 17 and 18 GW "five times greater than the next largest producer Spain with a total of 3.5 GW." That does a lot to explain why supplies in the US dried up as we heard that whole ship loads of panels were redirected to Germany in the middle of the year.
The Reuters article points out that steep cuts in feed-in tariffs in mid-2010 explain why many investors accelerated their plans to install solar to get under the deadline. An industry representative told Reuters that annual increases of three to five GW would "bring Germany's total to 52 to 70 GW by 2020" and that under this scenario, Germany's overall electricity production from solar would increase from 2% currently to between 9 and 12 percent by 2020. When compared with the U.S. in which about 1/10 of 1% comes from solar, Germany's accomplishment is impressive.
And as pointed out in a letter to the International Herald Tribune, consumer friendly financing policies contribute substantially to the growth of the solar energy market in Germany. As the letter points out:
Even with a subsidized energy price, the initial cost of installation is beyond most people's budgets. But in Germany, where state intervention is not a dirty phrase, you didn't need money upfront to get the panels on your roof.
A government-owned development bank gave people a long-term, low interest loan to purchase and install the panels. The excess energy produced by the panels had to (by law) be purchased by the electric companies. In turn, over a period of years, this money has been used to pay back the loan.
These forward looking governmental policies will continue to make Germany a place for the sun.