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And They’re Off! The Global Race for Solar

The United States has come a long way in embracing solar energy, and the news is littered with updates boasting about its progress and forecasts for the future. The Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) recent U.S. insight report, which analyzed the growth of residential solar in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2015, announced a 76 percent increase from 2014’s first quarter. This growth shows that average American homeowners are embracing solar and accepting that it is a wise investment.

But with all of the hype about solar expansion in America, it’s easy to forget that other countries around the world are on the road to solar as well—and many of the competitors are far ahead of us. The most recent ranking of the world’s solar competitors were updated in September 2014, and the top 5 are as follows.

  1. Germany: 35.5 GW
    With 26 percent of the world’s solar PV capacity in Germany, it’s no surprise that it is the champion—and isn’t expected to give up that position anytime soon. Agora Energiewende reported that, for the first time, renewable sources contributed more energy to the country than any other source in 2014. With progress like that, it looks like Germany is on target for it’s goal of producing 45% of its energy needs with renewables by 2030.
  2. China: 18.3 GW
    You may be surprised to see China in the number two spot, but the country has made astounding progress in recent years when it comes to renewables. In fact, its solar capacity has grown by 6,000 percent since 2009. China is surely going to hit its goal of 20 GW by 2020.
  3. Italy: 17.6 GW
    Italy actually generates more of its energy—7.53 percent in 2014—from solar than any other country in the world. However, the country decided to halt its subsidies at the beginning of 2015, so that may drag them down in future rankings.
  4. Japan: 13.6 GW
    Japan has recently created a lot of hype with its new trend of floating solar panels. The water under the panels cools them, making them 11 percent more efficient. They also decrease evaporation rates, conserving water in reservoirs that are often used to water the country’s bountiful rice fields.
  5. United States: 12 GW
    And the United States lands at number five, which isn’t too shabby. The 30 percent commercial and residential tax credit—set to expire at the end of 2015—has made investing in solar more appealing than ever. And with installation prices dropping dramatically, now is a better time than ever to invest in solar. Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents can dramatically cut their energy bills with Exact Solar. The panels on this home were put on by us!

While these countries are on the top of the solar game, the world’s impoverished nations are reaping the benefits of solar by using it to battle poverty. Children in India do their homework at night by the light of solar-powered lamps, providing them a better chance of rising above poverty while simultaneously saving their family $100 each year.

Inspired by his poorly lit childhood growing up in Africa, R&B and hip-hop recording artist Akon has made it his mission to light up his homeland with the power of the sun. His organization, Akon Lighting Africa, aims to provide electricity to the 600 million Africans who are living in the dark. By partnering with African banks and solar installers, Akon has provided inexpensive electricity to many citizens, many of whom have never seen artificial light before.

While some countries are at the forefront of the solar movement and some are just catching onto the sun’s potential to power the world, this is a race that benefits every participant. With each solar installation anywhere in the world, we are one step closer to a world that is powered entirely by 100% renewable energy—a world that will still be beautiful for generations to come.

Written by Sarah Bergen. Sarah is a writer and editor from New Jersey. She enjoys writing about environmental issues, sustainability, and health. She can be reached at [email protected].

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