Where Is The Best Place In The World For Solar Energy?

Solar energy is one of the most abundant renewable energy sources available. The sun continuously bathes the Earth in immense amounts of energy. In fact, the amount of solar energy that hits the Earth’s surface in just one hour could meet the world’s energy demands for an entire year. Solar power holds great potential to meet the world’s growing energy needs in a sustainable way, while helping mitigate climate change by transitioning away from fossil fuels. Since solar energy is ubiquitous, limitless and available everywhere the sun shines, the future is bright for widespread solar power generation across the globe.

Solar Irradiation

Solar irradiation, also known as solar insolation, refers to the amount of solar energy received at a location on the Earth’s surface. It is measured in kilowatt-hours per square meter (kWh/m2). Solar irradiation is a critical factor in determining the viability of solar energy in a region.

Areas that receive abundant sunlight throughout the year tend to have higher solar irradiation. Factors like latitude, weather patterns, pollution levels, and seasonal variations affect the solar irradiation levels for a place. Regions near the equator generally receive more solar irradiation than those farther away from it. Solar irradiation levels are also higher in areas with clear sunny weather compared to cloudy and polluted areas.

Higher solar irradiation translates to higher solar energy output. Solar panels can convert more sunlight into electricity in regions with greater solar resources. A difference of just a couple hundred kWh/m2 in annual solar irradiation can substantially impact solar installations. Therefore, areas with high yearly solar irradiation tend to be most suitable for solar energy production. They provide the optimal conditions to harness the sun’s energy.

Government Policy

Government policy plays a pivotal role in encouraging solar adoption. Many governments around the world offer incentives like tax credits, rebates, and feed-in tariffs to make solar power more affordable. These policies help offset the initial investment required to install solar panels. Governments may also implement renewable energy standards that require utilities to source a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources like solar. These mandates create renewable energy demand that stimulates the solar industry. In addition, permitting and interconnection policies can streamline and standardize the process for connecting solar panels to the grid. Simplifying solar regulations reduces soft costs and enables faster solar deployment. Some governments even exempt solar equipment from sales tax or offer low-interest loans. Such incentives allow more consumers to go solar. Overall, solar-friendly policies enacted at the national, state/provincial, and city levels are critical for spurring solar adoption worldwide.

Energy Prices

High energy prices from traditional sources like coal and natural gas make solar energy more cost competitive in many parts of the world. When electricity from the grid costs over 25 cents per kWh on average, rooftop solar can provide a cheaper alternative without subsidies in sunny regions.

Countries like Germany, Denmark, and Australia have some of the highest retail electricity prices globally due to taxes and regulations. This makes the levelized cost of solar very attractive to consumers. Homeowners and businesses can generate their own electricity for less than what they pay the utility.

In places with low energy prices, often due to government subsidies for fossil fuels, it is harder for solar to compete without its own subsidies or special policies. Regions with abundant hydroelectricity, natural gas, or coal tend to have the cheapest grid power. This includes parts of the U.S., Canada, Russia, and the Middle East.

However, as the cost of solar continues to fall over time, it is becoming competitive in more markets even with low energy prices. Grid parity has already been reached in many locations. With its predictable long-term pricing, solar provides a hedge against fossil fuel volatility as well.

Solar Infrastructure

Solar infrastructure and capacity varies greatly by region. Developed countries like Germany, Japan and the United States have made major investments in solar over the past decade, resulting in significant amounts of solar generation capacity. For example, Germany currently has over 50 GW of installed solar capacity, the most of any country in the world. The country’s strong policy support through feed-in tariffs drove rapid growth in rooftop and utility-scale solar installations.

Other European countries like Spain, Italy and the UK also have well-developed solar infrastructure with 10-15 GW of capacity each. These markets benefited from supportive policies but have slowed down recently. The United States has over 60 GW of solar capacity, much of it in California and the Southwest where solar resources are strongest. Major investments in utility-scale solar plants propelled growth, along with state-level incentives. Emerging markets like India, Brazil and South Africa have great potential for solar but currently lack the infrastructure and grid capacity to absorb large amounts of intermittent renewable generation.

Overall, solar infrastructure is expected to grow globally as costs continue to decline and more regions realize the environmental and economic benefits of solar power. But targeted policies and grid investments will be needed to develop solar in emerging markets and to further accelerate growth in established markets. Recent projections estimate global solar capacity could grow from around 500 GW today to over 8,000 GW by 2050, a 16-fold increase.

Land Availability

When considering the best locations for solar power, it’s important to assess the availability of land to build large-scale solar farms as well as the potential for rooftop solar panels. Places with abundant vacant land in sunny areas are ideal for building utility-scale solar farms. Deserts and rural locations often fit these criteria. Countries like India, China, and Morocco have focused on developing massive solar farms in desert regions. Rooftop solar also has enormous potential in densely populated urban areas and cities. Factors like building height, roof angle, and structural integrity determine which rooftops are suitable for solar panel installation. According to estimates, rooftop solar could provide around 40% of total global power generation. Places like Germany and Australia have encouraged rooftop solar adoption through supportive policies and incentives. When evaluating potential solar energy hubs, it’s worth considering not just open land for solar farms but also assessing rooftop solar capacity.

Case Studies

There are several countries around the world that are leading adopters of solar energy and serve as good case studies for where solar thrives.

Germany is a standout example, with over 49 gigawatts of installed solar capacity as of 2018. The country has benefitted from strong government incentives for renewable energy adoption, as well as declining solar panel prices. Southern Germany in particular has ideal conditions for solar with high irradiation levels.

China is now the world’s largest market for solar energy. With attractive feed-in tariffs and aggressive installations goals, China added over 50 gigawatts of new solar in 2017 alone. Large solar farms have been constructed in high irradiation regions like Qinghai and Gansu provinces.

solar panels installed in chile's atacama desert

California is a leader in solar in the United States, generating over 20% of its power from solar. Favorable policies, abundant sunshine, and access to financing have supported the growth in this region. Major solar projects are located in the Mojave Desert and Central Valley.

The United Arab Emirates has invested heavily in solar power to diversify away from oil. The $13.6 billion Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai will be the largest single-site solar project in the world upon completion. The UAE benefits from almost constant sunshine and vacant land for building large projects.


While solar energy has many benefits, there are some challenges that need to be addressed for it to reach its full potential. Some key challenges include:

Weather Dependence

Solar panels rely on sunlight to generate electricity. Cloudy weather, storms, and nighttime can temporarily reduce or halt solar energy production. Areas with fewer daylight hours will produce less solar power annually. However, solar output can be predicted based on weather forecasts.

Energy Storage

Solar energy can only be produced during the day. Batteries or other large-scale storage solutions are needed to store and release solar energy when the sun isn’t shining. Storage technology is improving but remains expensive.

Grid Integration

It’s challenging to integrate a large amount of solar power into the existing electric grid. Upgrading the grid with smart inverters and energy storage can help balance solar intermittency. Balancing solar with other renewable sources can also create a more reliable clean energy mix.

More work is needed to address these challenges and maximize the potential of solar power. But the rapid growth of solar demonstrates it can play a major role in our energy future.

Future Outlook

Several trends indicate that solar power will continue to rapidly expand in the coming decades. Advances in solar panel efficiency, energy storage solutions, and manufacturing techniques will further reduce costs and increase adoption globally. The arrival of aesthetically integrated solar roofs and building materials blend solar into infrastructure, while floating solar farms make efficient use of water surfaces. Combining solar with other renewables like wind power or hydropower will lead to higher capacity factors and ability to generate electricity 24/7. While challenges remain around the variability and storage of solar energy, innovative solutions are emerging such as demand response technology and smart grid management. With solar already among the cheapest sources of new electricity generation in many markets, its future looks bright.

The solar industry is projected to grow at double digit rates for the foreseeable future, with some estimates putting the solar PV market over 4,500 GW globally by 2050. Developing countries are expected to install the majority of new solar capacity based on rising energy demand and abundance of solar resources. The dramatic cost declines seen in solar power are projected to continue into the future as technology improves and economies of scale further increase. With the urgency of reducing carbon emissions and the favorable economics, solar energy will play a major role in shaping a clean energy future.


In conclusion, the key factors that determine the best place for solar energy include solar irradiation, government policy incentives, energy prices, existing solar infrastructure, and land availability. The area that consistently ranks at the top across all these factors is the Atacama Desert region in northern Chile. This region receives the highest solar irradiation in the world and has vast stretches of unused land perfect for utility-scale solar farms. Chile also has favorable policies like tax incentives for renewable energy investment. Furthermore, Chile’s high electricity prices make solar power more cost competitive. While the Atacama region faces challenges like grid limitations, the massive potential for solar power here and Chile’s demonstrated commitment to renewable energy makes it the ideal place to further develop as a world leader in solar energy.

Similar Posts