Will China outdo U.S. on rooftop solar?

rooftop-solarWe’ve always been of the opinion here at SolarChargedDriving.Com that rooftop and parking lot solar – a la solar carports and solar-powered EV charging stations – represent the best way for America to go solar.

Rooftop and carport solar are local, located in areas that have already been environmentally compromised, and they help to democratize energy production, consumption, and distribution.

We’d love to see a radical rooftop and carport solar revolution here in the U.S., one where 50, 75, heck, even 100 percent of viable solar rooftops and parking lots get solar.

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Less than 1% of roofs with solar
While there’s been good growth in the last few years in solar rooftops and carports, and, more specifically, solar-powered EV charging stations (which are a specialized type of solar carport), we’re nowhere near the point where 50 percent of viable rooftop and parking lots are solar covered in the U.S.

In fact, the U.S. has probably covered less than one percent of viable rooftops and parking lots with solar.

Luckily, some countries are ahead of the U.S. on rooftop solar. Germany, which has about six times as much total solar PV capacity as the U.S. despite being much more cloudy than 95 percent of the continental U.S., is one – although we have to confess we don’t know precisely what percentage of Germany’s solar PV is sitting on rooftops and/or atop solar carports as opposed to being located in large solar farms.

In the Far East, reports Reuters, China is aiming for three gigawatts (GW) of roof-mounted solar power generating capacity by 2015 and 25 GW by 2020.

That’s enough electricity to power more than three million American homes. To put these numbers in slightly different perspective, a third of China’s proposed total solar power capacity will be roof-mounted by 2015 and half by 2020!

cxTotal solar rooftops in U.S.
We’re not quite sure where we can get precise figures on the current total capacity and total number of rooftop solar installations in the U.S., though one study has shown that the U.S. could generate 710 GW of electricity annually if all viable commercial and residential rooftops were used.

That’s enough solar electricity to cover up to 75 percent of America’s electricity use.

And we’re pretty certain the U.S. is nowhere near three gigawatts of roof-mounted + carport mounted solar right now — for instance, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Open PV Project, has documented about 1.8 gigawatts of total solar PV in the U.S., and this figure includes numerous non-rooftop, mega solar farms.

25 GW of rooftop solar?
But the fact that we aren’t close to three GW of rooftop/solar carport solar right now doesn’t mean the U.S. couldn’t get to three GW of rooftop + solar carport solar by 2015, or 25 GW – or more – by 2020.

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Clearly, there’s more than enough rooftop solar potential to cover a significant portion of America’s electricity use. And it’s likely the U.S. has more parking lot potential than solar rooftop potential, though we don’t know of anyone who’s bothered to calculate how much total solar output parking lots in America could produce if covered by solar PV. In fact, that’s a story we should clearly do at some point ourselves :-).

The main thing that’s standing in the way of a rooftop and solar carport revolution in the U.S. is not electricity production potential, it’s a lack of political will.

Overcome that — something, which, we’ll admit, isn’t going to be easy — and the U.S. could easily outdo China, and the rest of the world, in rooftop and solar carport PV.

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