The official statistics were released by Germany's Network Agency (Netzagentur) on Friday. To put this figure into perspective, it is the largest amount of photovoltaics ever installed in any one country in a single year. When the Spanish market installed 2.5 GW in 2008, the government reacted by putting a 0.5 GW annual ceiling on the market.
As readers of this blog know, Germany has also responded to the boom last year by reviewing its solar policy, but the government is basically shooting itself in the foot right now. The announcements of a one-off reduction in feed-in tariffs for solar has ramped up the market considerably as everyone rushes to get installed before the lower rates take effect. To make matters worse for the government, which intends to devote less money to photovoltaics, the governing coalition has postponed the rate reductions and may postpone them even further, all of which will merely extend the current boom, which is likely to completely overshadow the performance of 2009.
Germany now has some 9.8 GW of solar. To put that into perspective, Germany has more than 120 GW of generating capacity, but peak demand generally comes in at just less than half of that -- roughly about 55 GW. At current growth rates, solar is likely to make up a very large chunk of that generating capacity 10 years from now, especially since the current governing coalition's target is an additional annual installed capacity of three GW, which would put us at around 40 GW by 2020 already.
Around noon time on sunny days in the summer, pretty much all of that generating capacity will be running full blast, which means we will probably have to be shutting down nuclear and coal plants, which serve the baseload, for several hours a day. And we have not even accounted for wind turbines, of which there is already around 23 GW installed. That source of energy, however, generally complements solar; the wind generally blows less when the sun is shining.
Clearly, the German grid has its work cut out for it over the next few years.