Solar energy is a rapidly-expanding source of electricity in many parts of the world. Harnessing the power of the sun provides a continually renewing, never-ending source of energy. However, purchasing new equipment to replace currently-working fossil-fuel technology is an expense that not everyone is interested in taking on or able to pay for. Government incentives are thus commonly provided to encourage citizens to invest in the energy of the future.
Germany is one of the top movers in the solar industry. The government has spent a lot of time and effort not only to bring solar panels into greater use, but also to make them popular. This means that as well as installing millions of panels around the country, the government has also run a large public awareness campaign. 3% of the total electricity used in Germany today is provided by solar power.
Japan, the USA, Spain and Italy round out the other top five countries pursuing the use of solar energy today. All except Japan offer some form of government incentive, either to businesses, individuals, or both. In certain countries, the use of solar power is mandated in some situations. Spain requires solar water heaters on all new construction, for example.
Investment subsidies, which are offered to help cover the cost of equipment, are often available along with feed-in tariffs and other incentives. Feed-in tariffs are contracts that pay a higher rate for solar electricity than electricity generated by fossil fuels, usually using a multi-year contract. These tariffs are the most common form of remuneration for solar power users.
Feed-in tariffs are used by large solar electric plants, but they may also be used by individuals. In many areas, individual solar panels on a home or property are connected to the electric grid, which has several advantages. It allows the users to sell excess energy produced by their solar system, and also provides energy from another source if there is a temporarily high demand.
As well as federal incentives, some states, provinces, counties and even cities offer incentives for the use of solar panels. These come in the form of investment subsidies and feed-in tariffs, which help users purchase the necessary equipment to get started and provide some additional compensation for using it. Depending on the country, solar incentives can vary widely between provinces, states or territories.
Because solar panel incentives vary so widely between countries and even areas of the same country, it is impossible to make a blanket statement about the best options. Certain countries place a higher priority on their solar initiatives, with Germany out front in this matter. However, some of the best and worst places for solar incentives are located within the same countries, such as the USA and Australia.