Solar Energy Expansion US, China and Germany
Solar Energy has lagged far behind wind in terms of development because, it has not been as cost effective. Two countries that have forged ahead with success in this area are China and Germany. What is leading to this success? How does the model for sun-a prosumer model differ from other economic models?
Germany leads the world in solar energy production from photovoltaic plants despite not being that sunny. So certainly nations like Australia, China and the United States could follow suit and produce much more.
Germany has followed a model that leaves much of the development cost up to the consumer, who is also the producer, or prosumer. Hence, this can occur more rapidly. It also means the prosumer is part of the key profit takers in the industry.
Energy usage peaks in the daytime and during the summer in many regions, hence solar can be critical in meeting peak loads, which offsets storage issues. In 2013 Germany had several occasions where solar provided more than 50% of all electricity.
Part of the success has been due to the lower cost of emplacing solar panels, which mainly is realized from the more rapid emplacement, lowering labor costs. In th US costs for payoff of solar vary from city to city, due to rebates and tax incentives. The cost in 2012 was $5500 per kwatt, by 2013 it was down to $5000 per kwatt, Germany is close to $2000 per kwatt.
In the United States solar power is becoming much more competitive leading to a large growth in capacity, led by California. This has led to increased employment.
How competitive is solar today?
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