The European Union’s Joint Research Centre reports that photovoltaic modules installed globally in 2009 had a capacity to generate more than 7 gigawatts of electricity — the equivalent of about seven nuclear power plants. Out of these, almost 6 gigawatts were installed in Europe. This means that 75 percent of the world’s photovoltaic systems went up in Europe alone during last year. The cumulative installed PV capacity in the world comes to 22 gigawatts, with 70 percent being European.
The United States, though enjoying far more sunshine and being the birthplace of modern photovoltaics, lags dreadfully behind, having a mere 1.6 gigawatts installed over the years. One key reason — government support remains limp compared to incentives in Europe.
Germany remains the world leader with more than 50 percent of the overall world photovoltaic capacity. Spain ranks second. It’s not the sunshine that stimulates this leadership; it’s government commitment.
Meanwhile, when it comes to production of solar cells, China comes out the clear leader, producing 4.4 gigawatts. Europe came in second and Taiwan third. America once produced all the solar cells in the world. But starting during the Reagan administration and continuing under subsequent presidents, the U.S. surrendered its leadership role in photovoltaics and continues to trail.