Where Is Solar Energy Used?

Global solar energy usage has skyrocketed over the last ten years. Back in 2009, the world had a total capacity of just under 23,500 MW. Today, this capacity has risen to over 485,000 MW, but where is solar energy used?

This article takes a look at worldwide solar energy usage for the year 2018. All data has been taken from a 2019 report on renewable energy capacity statistics by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). If you are interested, you can obtain a copy of the report from the IRENA website.

Solar Energy Usage By Continent

The following table shows solar energy capacity by continent for the year 2018. Take a moment to read through the data before moving on to our main section on usage by individual countries.

Table 1: Solar Energy Capacity By Continent In 2018
ContinentCapacity (MW)
Asia274,866
Europe121,692
North America57,118
Oceania10,006
Africa6,093
Eurasia5,663
South America5,469
Middle East3,181
Central America & Caribbean1,737

The above statistics show how Asia is bar far the largest user of solar energy. In fact, the continent has well over double the capacity of the second largest user (Europe). It is a similar story between second and third place; Europe has more than double the capacity than North America.

Which Countries Use The Most Solar Energy?

Let’s now take a look at which countries use the most solar energy. The following table shows solar energy capacity in MW by country for the year 2018. We have taken the top ten countries by capacity and shown them in order.

Table 2: Solar Energy Capacity By Country In 2018
CountryCapacity (MW)
China175,032
Japan55,500
United States51,450
Germany45,932
India27,098
Italy20,126
United Kingdom13,108
Australia9,769
France9,483
South Korea7,862

Now that we have the data, we can take a look at this in greater detail.

China & Japan

From the statistics, we can see that China is by far the largest user of solar energy with an installed capacity of 175,032 MW. Second place Japan has an impressive capacity of 55,500 MW, but this is still less than a third of China’s capacity. Because of this, you may be forgiven for thinking Japan aren’t doing that great, but in reality, they are doing very well as the second largest producer.

China is home to many of the world’s largest solar farms. These large scale solar PV systems use huge arrays of solar panels to achieve significant output. For example, the Tengger Desert Solar Park in Zhongwei, Ningxia has a capacity of 1,547 MW. That’s over 1.5 GW of photovoltaic capacity!

United States

The United States has a similar capacity to that of Japan. In 2018, the US had an installed solar PV capacity of 51,450 MW. This figure makes up the majority of the total capacity for all of North America which totaled 57,118 MW for the same period.

Germany & Other European Countries

Germany is fourth on the list with a capacity of 45,932 MW. This figure dwarfs that of Italy (20,126 MW) who are the second highest producer of solar power within the EU. The United Kingdom follows on from Italy with a capacity of 13,108 MW. France has the fourth largest solar power capacity within the EU at 9,483 MW.

India

India comes fifth in the rankings and is placed between Germany and Italy. In recent years, the country has focused heavily on the installation of solar technology. India has an abundant supply of solar energy and is starting to reap the rewards of this renewable energy source. We even have an article dedicated to this topic which you can find here.

Australia

Australia is the main contributor to the solar energy capacity of Oceania. The continent as a whole had a capacity of 10,006 MW in 2018, 9,769 MW of which came from Australia alone. As a result, the country takes the solar power crown for Oceania.

South Korea

Last in the top 10 solar power producing countries is South Korea. The republic had a capacity of 7,862 MW in 2018, getting close to its nearest rivals of France and Australia.

Conclusion

We can conclude that China has the largest solar energy capacity by far. The country has made great strides into renewable energy technology in recent years and solar has been no exception.

Japan, the United States, and Germany all deserve credit for their respectful capacities. We look forward to seeing how the battle between these countries plays out over the coming years.

In the mid-table are India and Italy, both of whom generate large amounts of solar energy. Towards the bottom of the top 10, we have the UK, Australia, France, and South Korea. Whilst at the bottom of the table, these countries are still helping to lead the way in large scale solar power adoption.

More About The Data

As mentioned previously, the figures shown on this page are taken from a 2019 report by IRENA. In the report, solar energy capacity is measured as the maximum net generating capacity of solar PV power plants and other installations. These can include solar thermal energy facilities using concentrated solar power (CSP) technology.