Top 10 Countries That Use Solar Energy The Most
Countries that use solar energy the most are working towards a sustainable future by investing in renewable energy sources.
From smartphones and TVs to street lights and electric trains, there is no denying that energy runs our lives.
In short, we’re living in an energy-hungry world.
Nowadays, everything in our day-to-day lives revolves around electricity and solar radiation is an abundant and inexhaustible energy source that can be used anywhere in the world.
Nonetheless, the world uses harmful fossil fuels and a shift towards renewables has created an energy mix that’s becoming the current norm.
Solar energy is the power of solar radiation, harnessed from the Sun.
The sun produces light, which comes in the form of visible ultraviolet and infra-red rays.
Solar energy is clean, dependable, and is collected using solar panels.
Now let’s take a look at some of the countries that have developed their solar industry and increased their solar power capacity.
Here is our list of solar power by country.
For a long time, China relied on traditional energy from fossil fuels, coal in particular.
But in recent years, coal energy plants and mines have been shut down as part of the government efforts to maximize renewable energy capacity.
Nevertheless, fossil fuel still accounts for up to 59% of China’s total energy consumption.
With investment in solar technology, China has moved from having no PVs to 100% coverage in a short span of 25 years.
The country successfully installed a mind-boggling PV capacity and exceeded power generation of 401 Gigawatts by the end of 2017.
China has been the leading solar photovoltaics (PV) installer in the world since 2013.
In 2015, China toppled Germany as the largest photovoltaic power producer surpassing the 100 Gigawatt mark in 2017.
According to a study by Nature Energy, solar energy consumption in most Chinese cities is now cheaper compared to the national grid electricity.
China has promised to boost its solar power capacity, with US$367 billion set aside for this project between 2017 and 2020.
China is home to the world’s largest solar farm – the Tengger Desert plant.
Another massive solar energy plant is the Zhejiang Jinko Solar Co. Ltd which, was founded in 2006 and employs over 10,000 professionals.
But this doesn’t mean that the country doesn’t face some challenges.
China is the leading producer of polysilicon, which is used all over the world to generate solar cells.
When using polysilicon, the byproduct is the poisonous silicon tetrachloride.
Also, the government’s subsidies for PV installation have been termed as “unsustainable” by energy experts.
Most solar energy generating plants are also built in the densely populated west, whereas the consumption is mainly in the east with big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
This way, the cost of infrastructure to transport solar energy in China is relatively high.
Challenges aside, China is great in renewable energy production and use, with
No wonder, it’s one of the leading countries that use solar energy.
2. The United States
Solar energy in the US includes locally distributed power (rooftop photovoltaics) and utility-scale solar energy plants.
By 2017, the country had already installed a PV capacity of over 50 Gigawatts.
Take the year 2018, for example, where solar energy generated from utility-scale produced 66.6 terawatt-hours (TWh).
This translates into a total of 1.66% of the total energy consumption in the country.
A report from the International Energy Agency says that the country’s solar energy market is expected to grow tremendously by 2021s.
When it comes to employment, the solar energy sector had overtaken coal, oil, and gas by 2015.
It doesn’t stop there, though, because 260,000+ individuals were employed in the energy sector by 2016.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy even added that solar energy jobs had experienced 160% growth since 2010.
This is approximately nine times the overall national average employment growth rate during the previous five years.
Some solar power plants in the US include the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, Solana Generating Station, Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, among many.
But it’s not all smooth regarding solar energy in the US.
For starters, the power grid infrastructure in the US has remained the same for quite some time.
Therefore, as the country tries to go greener, the infrastructure may not be well prepared to handle the increase of solar PV capacity.
Another issue that the country has to deal with is productivity, which is still not up to the country’s potential.
The good news, however, is that the government is continuing to put in place mechanisms to address these issues.
Up to 2016, Germany had recorded an impressive 41.3 gigawatts of PV installations.
This has made Germany the third-highest among the nations that use solar energy the most.
That said, solar PV capacity in Germany accounts for at least 7% of Germany’s net electricity generation.
By the end of 2014, about 1.5 million PV systems had been installed.
That alone speaks volumes about the country’s keenness on solar energy production.
In Germany, you’ll find residential solar systems installed on commercial buildings, and small home rooftops.
But if you think that the country is satisfied, you’re wrong.
Germany’s government has set a target to increase solar thermal energy use in the overall country’s consumption to 80% by 2050.
As difficult as that might seem, it’s possible to achieve this goal with proper policies in place.
For example, as of 2012, the FiT (feed-in-tariff or renewable energy payment) cost was around US$ 18 billion per annum for solar and wind installations.
In this case, solar panel suppliers/producers are offered long-term contracts, with lower per-kWh prices, compared to fossil fuel producers.
This way, investors are guaranteed maximum returns on their investment.
Also, as of the end of 2016, the government planned to mount PV panels on all buildings in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).
This is to help ensure maximum consumption of solar energy while cutting down on regular utility bills.
Germany boasts of over 30 solar power plants countrywide, with all of them being commissioned in the 2000s.
Some major solar companies include Bosch Solar Energy, IBC Solar, Centrotherm Photovoltaics, and many others.
All in all, the future looks bright for Germany in terms of solar energy investment and consumption.
Japan has been experiencing remarkable growth in the solar energy department since the late 1990s.
The country is, in fact, the fourth largest solar energy consumer in the world despite its small population of 120 million.
Japan’s renewable energy capacity is enough to supply at least 5% of the country’s annual electricity demand.
And did you know that at least 45% of all PV cells globally are manufactured in Japan?
Well, it all started in 2004 when the government decided to set solar photovoltaics targets, which were again revised in 2009.
The country’s solar PV capacity should be at least 28GW by the end of 2021 and 53GW by 2030.
Interestingly, all the set targets were surpassed, with the 2021 goal being met in 2014 and the 2030 mark in 2018.
After the country’s shift away from being nuclear-power dependent, three new solar power plants were set up in 2011 and 2012.
They include the Komekurayama Solar Power Plant (10MW), Ogishima Solar Power Plant (13MW), and the Ukishima Solar Power Plant (7MW).
Most recent projects to boost solar energy production include the Yamakura Dam floating solar farm that will light up at approximately 5,000 households.
However, Japan still needs to modernize its power grid to take full advantage of solar energy benefits.
The electricity system in Japan comprises 10 grids, most of which hold minimal interconnection.
That is why experts in Japan suggest that the government needs to act fast to ensure that Hokkaido power is channeled to where it’s needed.
The government has also admitted to a shortage of equipment to meet the sudden burst in solar energy demand.
But to Japan’s defense, improving a national power grid can be costly because the country will need to install giant batteries to store the Sun’s energy.
It’s safe to say that all indications are pointing towards a bright future for Japan in this regard.
As of October 2021, India’s solar PV installation capacity had already hit an impressive 31.696GW, according to Wikipedia.
Much of this success can be attributed to the country’s low capital cost per MW, which is the lowest globally.
The Indian government had set a target of 20GW PV capacity by 2022, which has since been met four years ahead.
Upon seeing this, the target was adjusted to 100GW by 2022, with at least 40GW being from rooftop solar.
To help achieve this target, the government put in place favorable policies/funds for Solar Plant investors to acquire parks easily.
For example, the government allocated a whopping US$140 million for the clean energy fund and Jawaharial Nehru National Solar Mission during the 2010/11 fiscal year.
On top of that, the government is also setting up an off-grid solar power plant for local energy consumption.
As a result, the country had reported slightly fewer than 1 million solar lanterns being sold in 2015, eliminating the population’s overreliance on kerosene.
In that year, 118,700 domestic solar lighting equipment was installed, with 46,655 street lighting installed under a national program.
It’s no wonder that the ISA (International Solar Alliance) comprising of 121 countries has its headquarters in India.
On the flip side, land price in India is a growing concern as the population continues to multiply.
Installation of PV plants usually takes vast tracks of land, something which India doesn’t have in abundance.
Furthermore, India’s power grid is not modernized enough, so the county has resorted to focusing on rooftop solar power systems.
But despite those few drawbacks, experts suggest that India should make solar power the dominant component because it’s ‘densely’ populated.
Some solar photovoltaic power plants in India include the Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, Bhadla Solar Park, Pavagada Solar Park, and many others.
By 2018, Italy had 20GW of solar PV capacity; in Europe, that’s an accomplishment only battered by Germany.
The journey to green energy has been long, dating back to 2005 when the country installed its first Conto Energia program to support renewable power development.
Although there was growth, it was in the years 2009-2013 that tangible results were felt.
PV installation increased in the country by nearly 15-fold with 2012 experiencing a capacity of 16GW, only second after Germany back then.
In 2013, solar capacity growth slowed a bit after the reduction of government subsidy programs.
But that didn’t stop the country from recording a yearly growth of around 300-400MW till today.
Solar power took a total of 7% of the country’s electricity consumption in 2013, with 2017 posting an impressive 8%.
And according to a 2015 European Commission report, Italy had installed about 2.64GW of residential/rooftop PV capacity.
This represents about 2.7% of the world’s total.
But it was in 2018 that Italy broke the 20GW mark, with an ambition to hit 50GW by 2030.
This complete success wouldn’t be possible today had the government not put in place proper policies.
Firstly, the European Union Directive 209/28/EC requires the total solar power capacity of its member-states to be at least 34% by 2021.
Also, the Conto Energia schemes’ photovoltaics benefited from the FIT (Feed-in-Tariffs).
Some big photovoltaic power plants in Italy include the Rovigo PV Power Plant, Montalto di Castro PV Power Station, Serenissima Solar Park, and many others.
There are also solar companies such as the Tages Helios Technology, Enel Green Power, RTR Energy, etc. that have employed thousands of Italians.
With all these benefits in mind, it’s hard to see Italy going down in terms of green energy production.
7. The United Kingdom
Up until the 2010s, solar energy represented a tiny portion of the country’s electricity production.
It all dates back to 2006 when the country had installed around 12MW, which represented a mere 0.3% of the total EU installation.
Much of the success in this sector is down to the falling cost of PV (photovoltaic) panels globally and, of course, the FIT subsidies.
And as of 2021, the UK had a PV installation capacity of 13GW, representing at least 4% of the county’s consumption.
But it was the introduction of FIT in 2010 that saw the country experience more domestic, community, and commercial installations.
According to a 2015 report by the EU Commission, the UK had 2,499MW of residential solar photovoltaic installation by then.
This represents an impressive total of 2.7% of all households in the world.
Residential solar installation advantages include cost saving and developing self-awareness about environmental conservation benefits.
The Guardian revealed that installed solar capacity is of most UK businesses and homes quite high.
The same report further adds that most UK coal plants are closing down per the 2025 ban.
However, the UK has been steadily reviewing its FIT subsidies downwards recently, resulting in a 65% drop in investment.
Another challenge that the country is facing is the lack of enough facilities to capture and store solar electricity.
Even worse, the Engineering UK 2018 report claims that the country has an annual shortage of 22,000 graduate-level engineers in this sector.
Fortunately, signs are there that the UK government is doing enough to meet its 2021 targets.
Australia is one of the few countries that boast of low initial solar energy installment costs and great incentives.
According to Wikipedia, Australia had surpassed the 1 million mark of small solar PV installations by 2018.
And by September 2021, Australia had registered 2.2 million-plus solar PV installations.
This represents 12.959GW of PV installations, with 3.290GW being installed in the previous year.
That said, Australia’s PV installation increased ten-fold between 2009 and 2011.
It didn’t stop there, though, because installation quadrupled between the years 2011 and 2016.
In 2018, solar energy accounted for 5.2% of Australia’s total electricity production.
Experts say that the country’s unique combination of latitude and dry climate is excellent for solar electricity production.
That’s because most of the continent receives more than 14MJ per square meter on a single day of insolation.
Such conditions are only available in southern and northern Africa deserts, the adjacent areas of Mexico, southwestern US, and South America’s Pacific coast.
But despite all this potential, Australia had only installed 8GW of rooftop solar PVs by the end of 2018.
According to a 2021 study by The Institute for Sustainable Futures, the country had less than 5% of its rooftop installation capacity potential.
To address this problem, a couple of states came up with FIT schemes.
For example, in March 2016, the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) started a solar FIT program.
It was agreed that systems under 10KW would pay 50.05 cents per kWh.
As for systems with 10-30KW, the charges are 40.04 cents per kWh.
The payment is to be made quarterly, depending on the amount of energy generated.
Even better, the payment rate was assured for 20 years.
Australia currently has a target to increase solar energy generation from the current 9.5GW to 45GW by 2021.
From an overall solar power capacity of around 9GW in 2018 to over 12GW in 2022, France is undoubtedly serious about solar energy installation.
To begin with, France is one of the founders of the ISA, which says a lot about the country’s green energy commitment.
ISA is, in fact, the second-largest alliance of countries (121) in the world, just after the UN.
Quickly moving forward, France managed to hit 10.196GW of PV installations by 2018.
The country has even set a goal to reach around 18-20GW by 2023, despite the wavering political support for this project.
Moving back to 2016, France managed position 4 in the EU in terms of installed PV capacity, thanks to huge investments by utility giants EDF and TOTAL.
The EU Commission predicts that France will have at least 1.48GW of residential PV installation by 2021.
The commission further adds that the countries estimated potential in residential PV installations is 34.81GW.
This shows that France still has some work to do to meet its green energy use targets.
To date, France’s largest completed solar energy park is the 300MW Cestas Solar Park.
Others include the 115MW Toul-Rosieres Solar Park, 67.2MW Gabardan Solar Park, 90MW Les Mees Solar Park, and many more.
In conclusion, France has successfully managed to overcome its administrative problems that created obstacles for solar projects.
For that reason alone, investors, lenders, and developers are currently trooping to the French PV market.
Last on our countdown list of countries that have the most solar installations and produce the most solar power in Turkey.
The country boasts of more than 1.5GW of solar PV installations today.
This represents 1.5% of the overall world’s solar power production making them the 10th in the world.
However, experts argue that Turkey can still do better considering its advantageous position in Southeast Europe and the Middle East.
The country has a sunshine duration of not less than 8 hours per day and average solar radiation of 344cal per day.
To rectify the situation, the government targets to increase installed solar capacity by around 30% and decrease natural gas share to below 30%.
The government has removed licensing for systems producing less than 500KW, such as residential systems with priority given to system connections.
However, systems generating over 1MW will be licensed, but as long as they feed into the national grid.
The country’s FiT is also fair enough and applies to solar energy plants that will be operational before 2021.
In this case, the government will buy all electricity generated from the installed solar power for ten years.
Another thing, investors will get an impressive 85% discount on the rent charged for renewable energy parks/land.
Turkey aims to provide 65% of its energy needs from renewable resources by 2023, according to the Turkish government.
All in all, renewable energy production and investment have grown drastically in Turkey recently, thanks to the increasing government incentives.
When Will Renewable Energy Sources Completely Replace Fossil Fuels?
According to estimates, replacing fossil fuels with wind farms and solar power systems is possible by 2030.
Nonetheless, such a large transformation cannot occur without the full support of policymakers, investors, and many other factors.
Not every country in the world is capable of investing large sums of money into such undertakings and completely shifting to renewable sources of energy by the end of 2050.
However, wind, solar, and hydropower might replace fossil fuels by 2050.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the top 10 countries that produce the most solar power.
Did your country make it in our ultimate list?
If not, what are you doing on a personal level to ensure that the world meets its renewable energy targets by 2030?
You should, however, fret not because recent reports suggest that most countries around the world are quickly catching up.
With solar power energy, you’ll be getting a cheap, clean, and reliable source of electricity.
You can read the full benefits of using solar power here.