Germany just broke its monthly solar power generation record once again. In July, the grey-skied country logged 5.1 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity from solar power, slightly better than the 5 TWh of electricity generated by wind turbines it produced in January.
As Inhabitat points out, “The accomplishment proves once again that a lack of sunshine is no obstacle to scaling up solar energy — and if the Teutons can produce record amounts of solar power under grey skies, then the potential for countries with sunnier weather and more land mass (like the United States) is limitless.”
This recent milestone is one of many for the country that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the world in its rapid embrace of solar energy. As a point of comparison, Clean Technica notes,
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, and #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.
As Germany strives for a lofty goal of receiving 80 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2050, government subsidies are playing a big role in the rapid growth of renewable energy. Germany’s simple feed-in tariff policy, which pays renewable energy producers (e.g. solar energy producers) a set amount for the electricity they produce under long-term contracts, has driven the solar power boom. As installations continue to outpace government targets, Germany announced it will begin scaling backits feed-in tariff beginning this month.
Germany’s long-term policies to incentivize renewable energy have had a significant impact on reducing the “soft” costs associated with solar installation, such as permitting, inspection, interconnection, financing, customer acquisition. In fact, residential PV systems installed last year in Italy, Australia, and Germany are nearly 40 percent lower than in the U.S.
Soft costs represent approximately half of the total installed cost of residential solar systems here in the U.S., according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), but there are multiple options for reducing these and making solar power more accessible without the use of German-style long-term federal incentives.
America’s own German-style solar boom may be just around the corner. Residential solar installations in 2012 reached 488 megawatts — a 62 percent increase over 2011 installations. Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently told Greentech Media that solar is growing so quickly, “it could double every two years.” He continued that other renewable sources will supplement solar, “but at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.”…
We seem to be barely taping the available energy. As we develop it seems logical that we will recover and collect more and more. A web site from 2014 said we were then at about 17.7 Terawatts.
Currently, our civilization consumes around 17.7 Terawatts of power taken from all sources of energy, namely oil, coal, natural gas and alternative energies such as solar, wind, hydropower and others (1).
17.7 Terawatts is a big number. To give you an idea, 1 Terawatt can power 10 billion, 100 watt bulbs at the same time!
Another paper said 17.4 Terawatts was our world energy consumption for 2015. For 2018 the major countries used 11.63 Terawatts (9337 Mtoe) according to the global energy yearbook. Are we reducing consumption? It seems more likely these different sites are just not counting the same things, resulting in variations of estimates.
By one calculation, covering just 1.2% of the Sahara with solar power could provide the entire world with all its electrical needs, approximately 17.3 terawatts of continuous power each year.
Let’s do it.
Where are we in 2018?