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  • Writer's picturePacific Sun Technologies

5 Countries With the Highest Installed Solar Capacity (No. 2 May Surprise You)

Solar is booming around the world, and there are some surprising leaders -- and up-and-comers -- in the industry.

ground mounted solar panels gigawatt

Image source: Getty Images.

Solar energy is the fastest-growing new source of energy in the world, and it's still just scratching the surface of its potential. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), at least 302 GW of solar capacity were in operation at the end of 2016, enough to power 49.5 million U.S. homes. And solar energy still provides less than 2% of the world's electricity needs, meaning there are years, or even decades, of growth ahead.

The leading solar countries have made a concerted effort to build more renewable energy and include some usual solar powerhouses and some surprising entries. There could even be some new entrants on this list a year from now. For now, here are the top five.

commercial solar project sunsetting

Image source: Getty Images.


China has been the power behind the solar industry for more than a decade. But it was long a supplier of solar modules rather than a leading installer of solar power capacity itself.

In 2016, China installed 40 GW of new solar projects, according to the IEA, ending the year with 78 GW of capacity. Momentum has continued in 2017, with 35 GW of installations in the first seven months of the year. There may be 45 GW or more installed by the time the year is done, more than the total global solar market annually as recently as 2014.