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Cloudy Germany Unlikely Hotspot for Solar Power

It rains year round in Germany. Clouds cover the skies for about two-thirds of all daylight hours. Yet the country has managed to become the world’s leading solar power generator.

Even though millions of Germans flee their damp, dark homeland for holidays in the Mediterranean sun, 55 percent of the world’s photovoltaic (PV) power is generated on solar panels set up between the Baltic Sea and the Black Forest.
There are now more than 300,000 photovoltaic systems in Germany — the energy law had planned for 100,000.

Spread out across the country, they are owned by legions of homeowners, farmers and small businesses who are capitalizing on the government-backed march into renewable energy.

By tapping the daylight for electricity — which power companies are obliged to buy for 20 years at more than triple market prices — they are at the vanguard of a grassroots movement in the fight against climate change.

“It’s grown much faster than anyone thought it would,” Juergen Trittin, the former Environment Minister who masterminded the scheme, told Reuters. He was mocked at the time for his claims it would create jobs and not hurt the economy.

There are now 250,000 jobs in Germany in the renewables energy sector. Asbeck expects the number of jobs in solar power alone to double to 90,000 over the next five years and hit 200,000 in 2020.

Gerhard Mueller-Westermeyer, a climate researcher at the German national weather service (DWD), said most of Germany is covered by clouds between five and six eighths of the time and there are only a handful of days each year with no clouds at all. Many German towns have annual sunshine of some 1,500 hours — about half as much as in Spain.

“Obviously, there would be a better return on solar panels set up in sunnier places like Africa,” he said. “But the energy would have be transported and that’s difficult. So it makes sense to build solar panels where people need them.”


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