Hallo and Kon’nichiwa from World Solar Leaders

Solar energy has been steadily gaining popularity in many parts of the world in the last few decades. This makes sense, seeing as it has environmental and economic benefits that are appealing to most. It is exciting to see solar energy spreading out across the United States and other countries, being used to power houses, offices, and an increasing number of devices. When it comes to solar production throughout the world, however, there are two countries that stand out above the rest. They are Germany and Japan. What is it that makes both of these countries world leaders in the solar industry?
 

Let’s start from Germany.
 

It might seem strange that a country whose weather forecast predicts more overcast skies than cloudless days would be leading the world in solar energy. On average, Germany receives around 1,601 hours of sunlight annually, while the United States receives around 2,709 hours[1] [2]. Luckily for everyone, direct sunlight isn’t a mandatory correlation to the amount of energy solar panels produce (see our previous blog post for more details on that!) The main reason Germany is doing so well in the solar production realm, however, has less to do with the sunlight it receives and more to do with its government.
 
Germany_Electricity_Generation_5-25-26-2012
 

In 1991, the German government implemented the Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz, or the Renewable Energy Source Act. Since then it has had many revisions, the latest of which was in 2014. As a summary, the Act is to simplify the development of energy sources that will protect the climate and environment, reduce the costs of energy, conserve fossil fuels, and encourage the advancement of technology in the field of renewable energy[3]. As this law has evolved over the last 25 years, it has become more of a priority to the country’s government and citizens. In fact, in 2014, 27.8% of energy consumption was produced by renewable sources, in comparison to the 10% in the U.S[4] [5].

 

Now, let’s check out Japan.
 

In the past, Japan had to rely on other nations to provide them with resources needed to produce energy since it is not a nation flowing with oil and coal. When Japan’s leaders realized that their country made up 2% of the world’s population but created 5% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, changes were made to decrease its CO2 emission. Today 45% of solar PV cells are manufactured in Japan[6].
 
SolarGIS-Solar-map-Japan-en
 

Unlike Germany with its cloudy weather, Japan has another so called predicament that makes the fact that they are world solar leaders a little confusing; it is a densely populated country. While the U.S. has a population density of 35 people per square kilometer, Japan is at 349 people per square kilometer[7]. That obviously has not deterred them from thinking outside of the box for ways to generate sufficient renewable energy. In November of 2013, Kyocera Corp. opened a solar power plant that has the potential to generate 78,800MWh annually. The interesting thing about this power plant is that it is located in the middle of the Kagoshima Bay[8] — yes, it’s floating on water. With the creative use of unused “land”, Japan now has 3 operating solar power plants built on water and construction for yet another floating solar plant, which will be the largest in the world[9], is underway.
 

Good job, Germany and Japan. The world salutes you as we follow right behind you.
 
 

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References:
[1] http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Germany/annual-hours-of-sunshine.php#c

[2] https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/US/average-annual-state-sunshine.php

[3] http://www.germanenergyblog.de/?page_id=283

[4] http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/07/29/3685555/germany-sets-new-renewable-energy-record/

[5] http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=92&t=4

[6] http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/energytrends/currentusage/renewable/solar/japan/summary.shtml

[7] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.POP.DNST

[8] http://www.power-technology.com/projects/kagoshima-nanatsujima-mega-solar-power-plant/

[9] http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/renewables/japan-building-worlds-largest-floating-solar-power-plant