Michael Phelps’ eight gold medals a precursor as USA goes for solar gold

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The landmark announcement of PG&E yesterday to purchase power from facilities that will have a combined capacity of 800MW got me thinking about who is really going for gold among solar power generation centres around the world.

The hypothesis:
“The top sporting nations in the world also offer the best prospects for the implementation of solar energy in the mainstream.”


  Gold Medals by day 6 MWP Installed
China 23
USA 14 173
Germany 8 515
South Korea 6 35
Italy 6 36
Australia 5  
Japan 5 16
Spain 1 547

With some information from my good friend Denis Lenardic over at www.pvresources.com we can start to put together a picture of solar power generation at large-scale utilities around the world.

The top five current (I am writing this after day six look so out for updates at the end of the Olympics) gold medal leaders at the Beijing Olympics are all strong solar players. China is leading with 22 gold medals and has one of the fastest-growing manufacturing infrastructures for solar power generation but sadly almost 96% of production goes off-shore and is not installed locally.

(Chinese PV manufacturer Suntech installed the solar panels for the Beijing Olympic stadium, nicknamed the ‘birdsnest’.)

The USA currently has around 174.3MWp installed and the announcements from PG&E, Sunpower and OptiSolar today will almost double that capacity over the next four years. Coupled with the Sun Edison/First Solar roof top project, this sets the scene for the USA to dominate the market in the coming years.

Third on the medal tally for gold at Beijing is Germany and they currently have 515MWp installed in large-scale plants (defined as projects with capacity of 200KWp or more). With currently the largest consumer market and biggest manufacturing base, Germany is one of the leading countries.

The comparisons get more interesting with 4 and 5 on the medal tally being Korea with 35.5MWp installed and Italy with 36.8MWp.

Sixth on the medal tally at Beijing is Australia, that has recently announced plans to produce a 250MWp plant.

Japan comes in seventh on the gold medal tally and has 16.5MWp of power stations installed with a manufacturing base slightly smaller than Germany and a large installed base of consumer modules but small growth prospects after the removal of government subsidies two years ago.

Of course the anomaly is Spain; they are a solar powerhouse with 547.8MWp of installed power generation but have failed to get more then 1 silver and 1 bronze so far in Beijing. All eyes will be on Valencia next month as we take part in the 23rd EU PVsec and more importantly see the affects of the reduction in the Spanish government support of the solar industry.

With big businesses like PG&E and Sun Edison in California, not to mention the big man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, backing solar, it seems that the USA can eclipse Spain in the solar rankings to achieve the top position. Whether or not the USA Olympic team can overcome the Chinese in Beijing is another story entirely.

By David Owen

Picture courtesy of Denis Lenardic @ www.pvresources.com

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