The map above shows the global solar energy potential of the various regions around the world. Unsurprisingly, those areas closer to the equator tend to have greater annual potential than those further north or south.
For example, Scandinavia, Northern Canada and Russia all have potentials below 2.0 kWh/M2 per day whereas some regions of South America and Africa have potentials above 7.5 kWh/M2. This means many of the poorest countries today, could be sitting on an energy goldmine in years to come. And the future is coming sooner than you think.
To get a better idea of the solar potential of each continent have a look at the rest of the maps below:
Looking at the map above, Europe is not the obvious candidate to be the world leader in solar PV electricity generation. Yet the EU as a whole produces more electricity from solar power than anywhere else at 94,570 MW in 2015.
Moreover, when you breakdown generation capacity by country, the list once again is not what you’d expect. Germany, dominates EU production accounting for 42% of installed capacity, whereas many Southern European countries, with far more potential, fail to even make the top 10 global solar PV countries.
Top 10 solar PV countries in Europe, in terms of installed capacity, in 2015 are:
- Germany (39,700 MW; #2 in world capacity)
- Italy (18,920 MW; #5 in capacity)
- UK (8,780 MW; #6 in capacity)
- France (6,580 MW; #7 in capacity)
- Spain (5,400 MW; #8 in capacity)
- Belgium (3,250 MW; #12 in capacity)
- Greece (2,613 MW; #13 in capacity)
- Czech Republic (2,083; MW; #15 in capacity)
- Netherlands (1,570 MW; #16 in capacity)
- Switzerland (1,360 MW; #18 in capacity, not in EU)
This is of course due to the fact that, geographically, Germany is not the best located country for maximum solar PV potential. The fact that it has such a large capacity is due to the fact that Germany has very generous solar subsides.
The story in North America is very much as you’d expect. California and the South Western offer the greatest potential within the mainland United States and that’s exactly where the majority of installed capacity is located. Unlike Europe, American solar subsidies have tended to be less generous, which means that installed capacity more closely mirrors solar potential.
Globally, the United States is the 4th largest solar electricity generator with 25,620 MW of installed capacity. Canada, with far less potential, still manages a respectable 2,500 MW making it number 14 in the world, whereas Mexico with a greater potential than the United States is only ranked number 32 globally with a small 282 MW of installed capacity.
With its massive potential, it’s surprising that Australia is only the world’s 9th largest solar PV generator, with only 5,070 MW of installed solar capacity. Far less than the cold, grey and cloudy United Kingdom.
Middle East and Africa
Despite both regions amazing solar energy potential, they lag far behind the world’s more developed countries in terms of installed capacity. Israel, is the largest solar energy producer in the Middle East with 881 MW, only enough to make number 25 in the world. South Africa is the largest generator in Africa with 1,120 MW, making it the world’s 20th biggest generator.
Central and South America
Central and South America follow a very familiar story to Africa with lots of potential but little installed capacity. Chile is the leader in the region with 848 MW of installed capacity, which places it just 26th in the world.
Asia, like Europe, is investing heavily in solar with many of the top global generators coming from the continent. This includes China the world’s single largest solar generating country.
Top 10 solar PV countries in Asia, in terms of installed capacity, in 2015 are:
- China (43,530 MW; #1 in world capacity)
- Japan (34,410 MW; #3 in capacity)
- India (5,050 MW; #10 in capacity)
- South Korea (3,430 MW; #11 in capacity)
- Thailand (1,420 MW; #17 in capacity)
- Taiwan (1,010 MW; #22 in capacity)
- Pakistan (1,000 MW; #23 in capacity)
- Turkey (266 MW; #33 in capacity)
- Malaysia (231 MW; #35 in capacity)
- Philippines (155 MW; #36 in capacity)
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