We hear a lot about how Germany and Spain have increased solar energy greatly in recent years with supportive government policies. We also hear a lot about China’s big clean energy push. And, despite trouble getting the US federal government to do much for solar energy, we know that the US is still continuously moving forward on this front. But have you ever wondered which countries in the world have the most solar energy?

Below are the top 10 countries in the world according to installed PV solar energy capacity. You might be surprised a bit. Think you know the order? See if you can name all ten countries in the right order before continuing on.

The PV market grew by almost 15% in 2009 compared to 2008. Total installed power increased 45% to 22.9 GW. These are the countries leading the way.

10 Countries with Most Installed PV Solar Energy Capacity (in MW*)

1. Germany (9,785): Germany is clearly the world leader. In 2009 alone, Germany installed 3,806 MW of PV solar energy capacity, more than Spain’s total installed capacity. “The combination of a proven FiT scheme, good financing opportunities, a large availability of skilled PV companies, and a good public awareness of the PV technology, largely contributed to this success,” European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) reports.

Photo Credit: daveeza via flickr

2. Spain (3,386): Spain was the world leader in newly installed PV solar energy (2,605 MW) in 2008 due to the government’s focus on creating a national solar energy industry, but its newly installed capacity went down tremendously (to 69 MW) in 2009. The reasons for this drop are attributed to complexity and delays related to the new CAP and a decrease in energy demand due to the economic crisis. With expectations that both of these will improve in 2010, and due to Spain’s good sun irradiation and PV potential, Spain is expected to increase its PV solar energy capacity a lot again this year.

solar energy spain

Photo Credit: cissell via flickr

3. Japan (2,633): Japan is third globally and also a country worth emulating. Government residential PV programs, net-metering, high national solar energy goals to reach 28 GW by 2020 and 53 GW by 2030, as well as the support of local authorities and the private sector make Japan a world leader in this field.

Tokyo Airport solar panels

Photo Credit: anatomyofamuse via flickr

4. United States (1,650): Supportive state-level policies are a major driver of growth in the US. With many large ground-mounted solar projects in the pipeline, the US is expected to grow a lot in coming years. Additionally, national legislation promoting solar energy (if it comes through) could move the US forward considerably.

2009 Solar Decathlon

Photo Credit: Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon via flickr

5. Italy (1,167): Mixing net-metering and a well-segmented FiT (combined with good sun irradiation), Italy has become a world leader in solar energy as well. It had the second most solar energy growth in 2009. “The future growth of the market will depend on the streamlining and harmonisation of administrative procedures, combined with an adapted decrease of the FiT in the third Conto Energia to cope with the expected price decrease,” EPIA reports.

solar panels italy

Photo Credit: UK in Italy

6. Czech Republic (465): A generous FiT and simple administrative procedures have put the Czech Republic on this list. The market growth has probably boomed unsustainably (and a little unexpectedly), however, and if policies aren’t put in place to slow it, it is expected to bust in the coming years.

solar panels czech republic

Photo Credit: Zruda via flickr

7. Belgium (363): Belgium was also a bit of a 2009 solar energy surprise. Belgium’s success was from “a well-designed Green Certificates scheme (which actually works as a Feed-in Tariff), combined with additional tax rebates and electricity self-consumption.” Belgium is not expected to do so well in 2010 “due to a foreseen tariff decrease.”

solar energy flowers Belgium

Photo Credit: Borya via flickr

8. China (305): China gets a lot of attention these days for its clean energy push, and for good reason. China is a major PV manufacturer but hasn’t installed a ton of PV itself yet. However, it now has 12 GW of large projects in the pipeline and if those projects are implemented China is expected to jump closer to the top of the list. According to China’s national energy plan, it is expected to reach a total of 20 GW by 2020. Nonetheless, as with many things in China, the plans remain vague (to the rest of the world) for now.

Secretary-General Visits Solar Energy Research Facilities in Xi’an

Photo Credit: United Nations Photo via flickr

9. France (272): “With its well-designed Feed-in Tariff for Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics (BIPV), the French PV market is dominated today by BIPV applications for residential and commercial applications. The FiT revision that occurred in January 2010 strengthened the conditions to apply for the highest BIPV tariffs to avoid abuses…. In order to keep the return of PV investments within sustainable boundaries, EPIA advises revising the tariffs in due time to accompany the price reductions and avoid any risk of speculative market overheat as started to be observed in the last months of 2009.” One key issue of concern in France is that although many MW of solar energy have been installed, a lot of them have not been connected to the grid. In 2009, 285 MW were installed but only 185 MW were connected to the grid. This is a major issue that needs to be resolved.

solar energy France

Photo Credit: FrenchSelfCatering.com via flickr

10. India (120): Similar to China, India has fast-increasing electricity demand and it has very high sun irradiation levels. It’s government has also been moving forward strongly on clean energy. It has a goal to reach 20 GW by 2020 as well. “Besides the National Solar Mission of 2009, the market expects much of the possible decision this year to define a longterm power purchase agreement that could definitively trigger PV deployment in India,” EPIA states. India could quickly rise higher on this list with proper government strategies.

solar panels India

Photo Credit: fredericknoronha via flickr

*Figures as of the end of 2009 via the European Photovoltaic Industry Association [PDF]

Have more to add or questions about this list? Comment below.