News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

Japan To Become Land of Rising Solar

Installing solar in Japan | Photo: Richard Masoner/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California's got a bit more competition in the solar world, and it's a formidable competitor. According to a new report, Japan is set to install five gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity in 2013, which will make it the world's second-largest solar market. (China's expected to take first place in that ranking this year.)

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Japan's increase in installation will propel the Land of The Rising Sun past Germany and Italy in the ranking of solar markets, and well past the U.S. as a whole.

The report, The Photovoltaic Market in Japan - 2013 Edition by IMS Research, credit's Japan's Feed-in Tariff (FiT) with much of the growth. Currently set at up to ¥42 per kilowatt hour, about 44 cents at the moment in U.S. currency, Japan's FiT is among the highest in the world, and will be even if -- as is planned -- it's reduced by about 10 percent in April.

Germany's relatively high FiT, by contrast, is around 25 cents per kilowatt-hour depending on the US-Euro exchange rate du jour.

Informal import restrictions counter the FiT to some extent, according to the report. Japanese consumers have a strong preference for goods manufactured in Japan, which means would-be solar buyers wait as domestic companies ramp up their production, despite the ready availability of Chinese and other PV panels.

Much of the newly installed solar in Japan is expected to be small rooftop arrays, which currently dominate the Japanese PV scene. But commercial- and utility-scale installations are expected to amount to close to half of Japan's 2013 installations, and about a third of those in 2014.

Perspective: Japan expects to install more solar capacity this year than California has in the last 20.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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