Where Is Solar Energy Used The Most?

Where is solar energy used the most?

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources in the world. The capacity for solar photovoltaics (PV) has increased exponentially over the past two decades, from around 5 gigawatts globally in 2005 to over 1,100 gigawatts by the end of 2021 (Statista). Countries all over the world are investing heavily in solar to meet rising energy demands in a sustainable way and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. This growth is being driven by falling costs for solar panels, supportive government policies, and innovations that make solar more efficient and affordable. Solar energy offers countries a clean, renewable source of electricity that has zero emissions and can help mitigate climate change. This content will explore where solar energy is growing the most and the factors driving its expansion globally.

Countries With the Most Solar Energy Capacity

China leads the world by far in total installed solar energy capacity. According to Wikipedia, as of 2021 China had over 300 GW of solar PV capacity, accounting for over one-third of the global total [1]. The United States ranks second with around 100 GW of installed capacity. Other countries with high total solar capacity include Japan, Germany, India, Italy, Australia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

China’s massive investment in solar energy is part of the country’s effort to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and combat air pollution in its major cities. The Chinese government has provided strong policy support, subsidies and incentives to enable the rapid growth of solar power. China is home to several of the world’s largest solar farms, including the Tengger Desert Solar Park which has an installed capacity of 1,547 MW [1]. With its huge population and energy needs, China is expected to remain the global leader in solar capacity for the foreseeable future.

Countries With the Highest Percentage of Solar Energy

When looking at solar energy capacity as a percentage of total energy generation, the leaders are countries with smaller populations and high solar resources. According to the World Economic Forum[1], the top countries getting the highest percentage of their total energy from solar in 2021 were:

  • Honduras: 12.4%
  • Australia: 12.2%
  • Germany: 9.2%
  • Greece: 8.7%
  • Italy: 8.6%

Smaller countries like Honduras and island nations can more easily convert a higher percentage of their grid to solar. Larger nations require more time and investment to transition away from fossil fuels and scale up solar across their massive populations. But some leaders like Germany and Italy show it’s possible for major developed economies to integrate significant solar penetration when there are supportive policies and investments in place.

Growth of Solar in Developing Nations

Solar energy is experiencing rapid growth in developing countries around the world. Many developing nations are turning to solar power as an affordable, sustainable solution to meet rising energy demands and counter issues like energy poverty and lack of electricity access (Source 1). Solar adoption is increasing in these countries for several key reasons:

Solar panels and equipment costs have declined significantly in recent years, making solar energy affordable for developing nations (Source 2). Solar is a scalable technology that can be installed at both small and large scales. Developing countries often lack major grid infrastructure, so distributed solar solutions are well-suited. Solar works well in rural, off-grid areas that traditional large power plants cannot reach. Many developing regions receive ample sunshine, making solar resources widely available.

Solar delivers social and economic development benefits beyond just electricity access. It creates jobs in installation, maintenance, manufacturing and more. Solar empowers communities by reducing reliance on expensive, imported fossil fuels. Solar supports education, healthcare, agriculture and other services through electricity access. International development groups are prioritizing solar expansion in developing nations. With costs declining and benefits clear, solar is poised for massive growth across the developing world.

Growth of Solar in China

China has seen rapid growth in solar energy installation and capacity over the past decade, becoming the global leader in total solar capacity. According to a Reuters article published in September 2023, China’s installed solar capacity is expected to reach 1,000 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2026, doubling from around 500 GW in 2022 (source). Rystad Energy similarly predicts China’s solar capacity will exceed 1 terawatt (TW) by 2026, with annual additions continuing to accelerate (source).

This massive growth has been driven by supportive government policies and investments aimed at reducing air pollution and emissions by increasing renewable energy. According to Wikipedia, solar power accounted for over 3% of China’s electricity generation capacity in 2020 (source). With declines in solar technology costs, China is expected to continue rapidly expanding its solar capacity over the next decade, solidifying its position as the top solar market globally.

Growth of Solar in India

India has seen rapid growth in solar energy capacity in recent years. According to a 2020 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), India’s solar energy capacity increased to 35 GW as of July 2020, up from just 2.6 GW in 2014 (https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/india-progress-climate-pledge-2019-ib.pdf). The Indian government has set ambitious targets for solar expansion, aiming for 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022 as part of its climate pledge under the Paris Agreement.

A key driver of India’s solar growth has been government policy support. The Indian government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010, which set targets, created financial incentives, and established regulations to spur solar development. The government has also used auctions to contract large volumes of solar power at low prices from project developers. These policies helped bring down solar power costs by 80% between 2010 and 2018, making it cost competitive with coal-based power.

The COVID-19 pandemic did cause disruptions to India’s solar growth in 2020. One report estimates solar additions fell to around 5 gigawatts in the first half of 2020, down from over 9 gigawatts added in the same period in 2019 (https://issuu.com/solarquarter/docs/_for_digital_solarquarter-_india_apr-may_issue_20). However, the market has already rebounded, with solar becoming the top source of new power capacity additions in India in 2021. Thus, India remains on track to continue its solar expansion in the coming years.

Growth of Solar in the United States

The United States has seen rapid growth in solar energy capacity over the past decade. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. currently has 161 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity as of 2022, generating enough electricity to power 30 million American homes.

Solar capacity in the U.S. has expanded by more than 2400% over the last 10 years. In 2012, the country had just 7.4 GW of installed solar capacity. Since then, annual installations have grown dramatically, setting new records year after year. In 2021 alone, the U.S. installed 23.6 GW of new solar capacity, marking the largest annual increase ever.

The SEIA projects that the strong growth will continue in the coming years. The solar industry is expected to install 357 GW of new capacity by 2030, making solar one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources across America. Key factors driving the solar boom include declining costs, supportive government policies, environmental awareness, and growing demand from utilities, businesses and homeowners.

California continues to lead in total installed solar capacity, followed by Arizona, Texas and Florida. However, many states across the Midwest, South and Northeast are emerging as high-growth markets as well. The SEIA reports that 29 states installed over 100 megawatts of solar in 2021, demonstrating the expanding geographic diversity of the industry.

Challenges for Solar Expansion

Despite the rapid growth of solar energy, there are still some key challenges that need to be addressed for solar to reach its full potential. Three of the main challenges are cost, storage, and grid integration.

Cost is still a major barrier, as solar energy remains more expensive than fossil fuel sources in many locations. The costs of solar panels have dropped dramatically in recent decades, but further declines are needed for solar to compete head-to-head everywhere. Some government incentives help make solar more affordable, but those vary widely across geographies.

The intermittent nature of solar power also creates the challenge of storage. Solar energy can only be generated when the sun is shining, requiring storage solutions like batteries to provide power at night and during cloudy days. Developing affordable and scalable storage is critical for solar to supply a greater share of energy needs.

Finally, integrating a large amount of variable solar power into the electric grid poses technical challenges. Grid operators have to balance supply and demand instantaneously, so accommodating the variability of solar requires new equipment, updated regulatory frameworks, and advanced forecasting of solar output. Upgrading transmission infrastructure may also be needed to get solar-generated electricity to population centers.

While solar power has expanded rapidly in the past decade, addressing challenges like cost, storage, and grid integration will be key for solar energy to reach its vast potential in the future. With focused research, investment, and policy support, solar can play an increasingly larger role in the global energy landscape.

Future Outlook for Solar

The future outlook for solar energy is very positive, with projections showing massive growth in solar capacity over the next few decades. According to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, solar energy capacity could grow from 405 GW in 2014 to between 2,500 GW and 4,000 GW by 2050.

However, some experts believe these projections are too optimistic given current technologies. As noted in Renewable Energy by Grandell et al. (2016), “solar energy future projections presented in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report do not seem to be realizable with the currently known technologies and production capabilities.” Significant advancements in solar panel efficiency, energy storage technology, and manufacturing capabilities will be required to meet the upper range of IPCC solar projections.

More realistic forecasts estimate global solar capacity will reach between 1,760 GW and 2,500 GW by 2050. China and India are expected to lead growth as they expand renewable energy to meet rising electricity demand and address pollution issues. The U.S. solar market is also anticipated to continue strong growth, with solar potentially providing 20% of U.S. electricity by 2050 according to some projections.


In conclusion, solar energy usage has grown substantially in recent years, led by rapid expansion in top countries like China, Japan, Germany, and the United States. Key factors driving solar growth include falling costs, supportive government policies, and the need for clean energy. While challenges remain, solar power has emerged as a mainstream energy source and its future prospects look bright. Solar is now competitive with fossil fuels in many markets and can help nations meet climate change goals while delivering reliable and affordable electricity. Based on current trajectories, we can expect solar installations and capacity to continue rising globally, with developing countries playing an increasingly important role.

The main takeaways are:

  • China, Japan, Germany and the U.S. lead in total solar capacity
  • Countries like Honduras, Greece, Italy, and Germany generate a high percentage of their power from solar
  • Falling prices and supportive policies have driven rapid growth, especially in Asia
  • Solar delivers environmental and energy security benefits
  • Despite challenges, the future is bright for greater solar expansion worldwide

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