In the international solar race, it looks like Germany might be winning. The European nation generated a stunning 5.1 tWh in July, breaking all previously-set records. Oh, and that last record? Also set by Germany. So yeah, it's safe to say that Germany is taking solar power very, very seriously, along with other forms of alternative energy like wind (the nation set another record in January by generating 5 tWh of wind power). Good on you, Germany!
Why is this so remarkable?
Well, for one thing, it shows that Germany has seriously invested in solar infrastructure. It's being widely adopted across the country and it has a very high per-capita penetration across the nation. In fact, Germany has the highest per-capita capacity worldwide, and it is continually growing that capacity, clearly on a mission to keep upping its renewable energy use.
Like other members of the European Union, Germany is very committed to getting away from the use of fossil fuels and into alternative energy, and the government is putting its money where its mouth is. This isn't just good for the planet. It's also a sound move economically speaking, because it makes these nations less dependent on sources of fossil fuel, allowing them to generate their own energy independently. As we know, dependence on potentially unstable nations for fuel supplies can become a political nightmare.
The United States, which has long touted energy independence as a key goal for national security, is lagging seriously behind on alternative energy. It ranks number 20 worldwide in terms of solar energy per-capita, illustrating that this country needs to do a lot more work to adopt solar power. Even now, it remains prohibitively expensive for many individuals, and it's seen as the focus of "green" design rather than something universal that everyone can adopt. A national plan should include not just the installation of individual home solar units, which is a great idea, but also the construction of larger solar arrays and government participation in solar energy programs.
Germany's accomplishment is also notable because of where the nation is located. It's not near the sunny equator, with long, warm days and lots of sun exposure. In fact, Germany can get pretty cloudy, and for a large chunk of the year, rain and snow are an everpresent part of the German lifestyle. The nation's energy generation accomplishment illustrates that it's not necessary to be a sunny country to have a successful solar program, although of course it helps. It's the precise placement and alignment of those panels that matters, though, and that's where Germany's excelling.
Lack of sun is a frequent objection and concern in conversations about adopting solar power, especially for the home. Residents of cloudy regions fear the sun alone won't be able to meet their needs, and that relying on solar could be a mistake. As Germany's energy generation feat shows, though, calling on an electrician to install solar panels can be a sound investment and a great idea: yes, even if you live in Forks, Washington.
Solar also includes thermal technologies, like solar water heaters. These can make a big difference in home energy use (water heaters are notorious energy hogs) and can be integrated into a solar system very easily. Homeowners who really want to take advantage of the power of the sun can take on passive techniques like orienting their houses toward the south and adding rows of windows to create a sunroom or greenhouse at the warmest point of the house to capture all that nice warm sunshine. (And hey, how about calling on a Phoenix tile contractor to install a beautiful tiled floor or bench to trap even more heat?)
As more and more people become aware of the advantages of alternative energy and options like solar power while myths are debunked left and right, a larger global conversation is challenging stereotypes and beliefs about alternative energy. Germany's record is a slap in the face to the myth that you need to be in Ibiza to benefit from using solar power, and that's a good sign for the industry and the globe.
Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.