Solar energy is expanding worldwide and becoming an increasingly important part of the energy mix in many countries. We consulted several reports to determine which countries use the most solar energy and which parts of the world have the highest solar production capabilities.
Solar energy is used all around the planet, but currently, China, Japan, and the United States lead the world in terms of total installed solar capacity. Here are the top ten countries ranked in terms of total installed solar in megawatts (MW):
Installed solar capacity by country (2020 data)
Data from IRENA's 2020 Country Rankings dashboard
Compared to the year before, the United States is one rank higher, having jumped past Germany. Additionally, India surpassed Italy, and France moved past Australia.
Which countries have grown the most in the past decade for solar PV capacity? Surprisingly, just 12 years prior, in 2008, China only had 253 MW of solar PV installed, meaning the total capacity of installed solar in the country has grown by over 1,000. Over the same time period, global solar PV capacity grew from 14,725 MW to 713,970 MW.
Solar panels can generate electricity just about anywhere on Earth, but some areas receive more sunlight than others and, as such, have a higher solar energy potential. The following map, prepared by Solargis, shows areas with the highest PV production potential. It is based on the insolation at different parts of the earth's surface, which is a measure of how much solar radiation hits an area.
World solar PV potential map
Many factors influence the PV potential/insolation of a geographic area, including sunlight angle, day length, and surface reflection. Looking at the map above, it's no surprise that many areas near the equator have relatively higher PV potential given the amount of sunlight they receive throughout the year, the high angle of the sun, and the lack of snow and ice to reflect solar radiation back to space.
Of course, these factors alone can't predict the solar production potential of an individual installation. Factors like the tilt of your solar panels, air quality, air temperature, weather variations, and more will all impact the hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly energy production of solar PV systems.
If you're curious about the solar production potential of your individual property, you can find out for free by registering your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. Use our comprehensive and easy-to-understand comparison tables to evaluate all of your equipment options, financing offers, and solar company reviews. When you compare multiple solar quotes, you can feel confident that you're making a smart investment in your home.