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Worldwatch: Another Sunny Year for Solar Power

Author: Janet L. Sawin
May 8, 2008

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A roundup of which countries produced and installed†the most photovoltaic (PV) or solar cells, which convert the sun's light directly to electricity, in 2008.

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Germany remains the world's top PV installer, accounting for almost half of the global market in 2007. Thanks to the country's feed-in tariff for renewable electricity, which requires utilities to pay customers a guaranteed rate for any renewable power they feed into the grid, Germans installed about 1,300 megawatts of new PV capacity, up from 850 megawatts in 2006, for a total exceeding 3,830 megawatts. As capacity has risen, PV installed system costs have been cut in half in Germany between 1997 and 2007. PVs now meet about 1 percent of Germany's electricity demand, a share that some analysts expect could reach 25 percent by 2050.

Japan continued to produce more PV cells than any other individual country, with 920 megawatts manufactured in 2007. But Japan's share of the world total fell from 37 percent in 2006 to just below 25 percent. Unable to compete with China and Taiwan for low-cost solar cells, Japanese manufacturers have changed tactics and are looking beyond conventional crystalline silicon cells to thin-film technology. Domestic installations in Japan declined from 286 megawatts in 2006 to an estimated 230 megawatts in 2007.

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