In 2010, Germany set a world record, installing 7400 megawatts (MW) – a quarter million solar systems. Germany now gets about 17% of its electricity from renewable energy, exceeding natural gas and closing in on nuclear and coal.
In the immediate aftermath of the Japanese nuclear accident, Prime Minister Merkel permanently closed two nuclear reactors and called on her government to revisit its controversial decision to extend the life of its aging reactors (40 years old – the same age as those in the US).
Germany’s feed-in tariffs have enabled the country to exceed its target of 12.5% renewable energy generation by 2010. It’s next target is 39% renewables by 2020.
Wind turbines and biomass plants delivered more than 70% of renewable generation. Biogas plants powered with methane from manure alone generated nearly 13 TWh.
In solar, nearly 700 MW from some 100,000 systems were installed by homeowners and an astounding 3,700 MW from more than 135,000 systems were installed by farmers and small businesses, says Paul Gipe. Large, multi-megawatt systems comprised 1,400 MW of capacity or nearly 20% of total capacity installed in 2010.
"With the Japanese nuclear calamity fresh in everyone’s mind and upcoming elections staring the government in the face, the success of Germany’s rapid development of renewable energy may give Chancellor Merkel’s conservative government the flexibility it needs to weather the nuclear crisis. It would not be surprising to find the government proposing an even more aggressive pace of renewable energy development than that seen in 2010," says Gipe.