Germany is the world leader in installed solar photovoltaic panels — and they also just shut down seven of their oldest nuclear reactors. Coincidence? Maaaaybe… Anyway, it's worth noting that just today, total power output of Germany's installed solar PV panels hit 12.1 GW — greater than the total power output (10 GW) of Japan's entire 6-reactor nuclear power plant.

solar PV performance in Germany

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Now before the trolls come out, let me just note that 12.1 GW is max power (the output whose name you'd love to touch). The panels generated that much at one instant in time — when the sun was at its apex — but of course solar power production varies with the weather and the time of day. To find out how much energy those panels generated today in total, you'd have to calculate the area under that curve in the lower right hand corner. (Which, come to think of it, we should probably use as the CAPTCHA on the comment field on this post.)

Update: the folks at The Breakthrough Institute did the math. Their analysis has a slant — it's impossible for anyone at the BTI to talk about what they view as the woefully inadequate state of current alternate energy technology without getting red in the face — so their comments don't, for example, reflect the fact that solar panels produce power when it's needed most. But, short version: the area under the curve is a significant portion of the total energy that could potentially be produced by Japan's Fukushima reactor, which wasn't running at full capacity when disaster struck. (Hence my 10GW figure, above, which reflects the amount of power it was producing when it was brought down.) Also, and I'm sort of paraphrasing here: "If you talk smack about nuclear, we will shot this dog."

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Regardless, Japan's facing rolling blackouts until next Winter, and it's undeniable that if the country had more distributed power generation like Germany's roof-based solar PV system, the entire country would be much more resilient in the face of catastrophe.