It’s Wednesday, January 11, and Europe’s solar capacity soared in 2022.

solar panels on a grassy field

2022 was a banner year for the European solar industry. According to an annual market analysis from the trade group SolarPower Europe, the European Union added 41.4 gigawatts of new solar capacity to the grid over the course of the year — a 47 percent increase over solar deployment in 2021 and enough to power 12.4 million European homes.

“Only history will tell,” the report says, “but it is likely that Europe will remember 2022 as the year the solar age truly began.”

The report attributes the sector’s rapid growth to the easing of COVID-related supply chain issues, as well as record-high energy prices and concerns about getting natural gas from Russia. As part of a plan from the EU’s executive arm to end Europe’s reliance on Russian gas, the EU has also fast-tracked efforts to add more than 320 gigawatts of solar power to the European grid by 2025 and almost 600 gigawatts by 2030. Today, the EU’s total solar fleet has a capacity of about 209 gigawatts.

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Germany and Spain led the pack in new solar capacity, adding nearly 8 gigawatts each in 2022, followed by Poland (4.9 gigawatts), the Netherlands (4 gigawatts), and France (2.7 gigawatts). For the first time, the report says, all of Europe’s top 10 solar markets were gigawatt-scale, meaning they added at least 1 gigawatt of new solar capacity over the course of the year.

The report sees a sunny outlook for solar power in the coming years, predicting that deployment will exceed 50 gigawatts in 2023 and climb as high as 120 gigawatts annually within the next four years. It warns that EU member states may be unprepared for such “seismic” growth; most of their national energy and climate plans have 2030 targets for solar capacity that will be hit five years early, if SolarPower Europe’s projections prove true.

“Each and every stakeholder in energy politics needs to be aware that imminently, solar will be at the center of the European Union’s energy system,” the authors wrote in a foreword. To maximize the sector’s full potential, the authors call on policymakers to dramatically expand the solar industry workforce, upgrade the grid for more solar connections, and streamline solar permitting procedures.

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