Germany installed a record amount of new solar power in 2012, 7.6 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity, according to new data released by the Environment Ministry. New installations fell somewhat towards the end of the year, because subsidies (the country’s feed-in tariffs for solar) were slashed.

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Image Credits: Solarfeld Erlasee via Wikimedia Commons

Total solar energy generation capacity there grew by over 7.6 GW, besting the previous records of 7.5 GW in 2011 and 7.4 GW in 2010. These large increases in capacity were triggered by the country’s feed-in tariffs, “which are guaranteed to generators for 20 years to encourage carbon free power to gradually replace fossil fuels,” as Reuters writes.

Recently, some businesses in the country have complained that the phase-out of nuclear power, and replacement with subsidized renewables, is ‘jeopardizing’ economic growth.

 
So the conservative government has decided to address these concerns by cutting the level of feed-in tariffs, in order to slow down the rate of new installations, until solar is cheaper than other currently used forms of energy. Tariffs were then lowered by 2.5% a month between November 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013.

These cuts resulted in total new installed capacity in the final quarter of 2012 to be less than a fifth of the total for the year. “611 megawatts (MW) had been installed in October, 435 MW in November and 360 MW in December.” showing pretty clearly that the cuts are working. The Environment Ministry is predicting total new installed solar energy generating capacity for 2013 to be between 3.5 GW and 4 GW.

The association of solar producers reports, that in 2012, “its members supplied 8 million households with power, 45 percent more than in 2011, and accounting for 5 percent of total power usage.”

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