Solar World

BCCAG member Erik Zimmerman reports from Europe where he's been attending some major renewable energy events.

I thought climate activists might be interested to see how Australia stacks up against the world in solar given I have just heard the numbers from the relevant national solar bodies. So here goes (in rank order) for 2009 (estimate):

#1 Germany : 2,000 MW
#2 Italy: 600 MW
#3 Spain: 500 MW
#4 Japan: 400 MW
#5 U.S.A: 376 MW
#6 Greece: 193 MW
#7 Czech Republic: 150 MW
#8 China: 120 MW
#9 France: 120 MW
#10 Korea: 80 MW

Please note each megawatt (MW) equates to 1,000 x 1 KW houses (or equivalent configuration). Australia would not make the top 10 with my prediction that approximately 50 MW will be installed this year. This means that Germany, with 3 x the population of Australia, will install 40 x the amount of solar. This is alldown to the hugely successful feed in tariff and this makes me wonder why we don't simply go down the same path. Some highlights from the German speaker (Gerhard Stryi-Hipp, Head of Energy Policy at the Fraunhoffer Institute)

  • The goal in Germany is 30% renewable energy by 2020
  • 53,300 people employed in the renewable energy industry
  • already with some 5 gigawatts of solar (5,000 MW) 1% of total electricity is coming from PV (and far more from wind)
  • Solar is now a Euro 9.5 billion market annually in Germany.

So for those people concerned that the shift to green energy will cost jobs I'd encourage them to take a look at Germany. The Hamburg Expo consisted of 6 football fields of exhibitors with state of the art technology and a thriving industry. I was left in no doubt that the energy revolution is just getting started.

And let's take a look at another market…. China. China now accounts for 51% of all solar panel production world wide. In 2010 they will also introduce a feed in tariff. The Director of solar producer CEEG, Mr Stephen Cai, presented some mind boggling numbers:

  • By 2011 China will aim to be #3 in the market with 500 MW
  • By 2020 China aims to have 20 gigawatts of electricity produced from solar
  • 250 MW of planning applications were submitted by May 2009 alone under the new 'Golden Sun' subsidy program where each province will receive 20 MW of central government funding. Rural provinces will receive 70% of total funding.
  • The wind energy target is 150 GW by 2020 (8% of primary energy)
  • First Solar have just announced plans for a large scale solar farm in the Mongolian desert that will power 3 million homes.

The interesting thing is that Australia has more space and more solar radiation than any of these countries. The question they asked me was…. why is Australia not building large scale solar farms? I answered well… there is some funding coming. $1.5 billion. Interestingly in the same week the University of NSW tested a silicon cell with the highest ever recorded sunlight to energy conversion (approx 43%).

I'm inspired about what is coming and yet feel we are at risk of being left behind,despite some momentum in 2009.

October 2009