Source watch: US Solar Industry Year in Review

Each year, the trade organization, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), publishes a Year in Review report, (pdf) filled with facts and figures, and enough eye-candy to make all that data go down smo-o-o-o-th.

Check out the “State Round-Up” for solar gains in your state. If you live in the US, that is. More specifically, if you live in California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri or Ohio.

If you live in any other state (Arizona, to pick one at random), you can breeze by this section.

Or do what I did: read it and see what other states have done that yours could be doing if your legislature didn’t already have its hands full protecting marriage or cracking down on whatever currently needs to be cracked down upon.

Then take in the international news.

We're number 3! We're number 3!

We're number 3! We're number 3!

The US roared ahead of Japan in new solar generating capacity in 2008. That puts us within striking distance of Germany and Spain! But don’t count out Italy and France just yet; they’re ranked just below Japan. (Note: No, you haven’t wandered into the soccer standings. We’re still talking solar.)

With 342 MW of solar coming on-line in 2008, the US dominates Japan which only managed to squeak out 235 new MW. That victory pushes our existing capacity to a whopping 1,547 MW, just 30% behind Japan’s cumulative capacity. And 50% behind Spain’s.

And then, at the top, there’s Germany, which is, annoyingly, just running up the score. That explains why Germany’s solar capacity is three-and-a-half times larger than ours. They’re show offs. The amount of solar power Germany added in 2008 alone is nearly identical to our total capacity in the USA.

Coincidence? Right, and the Apollo 11 “moon landing” was real. Snap!

If you were thinking of crediting Germany’s superior weather for their solar advantage (as folks in North Dakota might do, perhaps), the map below begs to differ.


I know it isn’t legible at this size, but here’s all you really need to know. The colored bar near the bottom of the map shows the amount of sunlight that typically falls in an area. Read from left to right, the bar color-codes place with very little sunlight (deep purple) to help-help-my-eyeballs-are-on-fire bright (red). Notice that in the lower forty-eight states, the “coolest” color is a small blotch in the Pacific Northwest. Now look at Germany. The brightest part of Deutschland is roughly equivalent to the darkest part of the US.

(If you want a larger copy of the map, the SEIA annual review has a link to download a very large pdf version of the map.)

But, I’m focusing too much on the negative. Think positive! Pretend you’re German and be happy that your government (and Japan’s) had the foresight to buy up America’s solar technology at fire-sale prices when the Reagan Administration decided that solar power was for plants, not people, and closed the world’s leading solar research center back in the 1980s. But that’s another story.

Joking aside, I do recommend downloading and reading the SEIA seia-report-copyreport. It’s an invaluable snapshot of solar policies, advances and items that should be at the top of our national energy “To Do” list.

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