Europe embarks on solar power ‘revolution’ to solve its energy crisis — and fight climate change

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Europe embarks on solar power ‘revolution’ to solve its energy crisis — and fight climate change

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Melissa Rossi

·Contributor

Wed, November 30, 2022 at 2:37 PM·8 min read

The Núñez de Balboa photovoltaic plant in Badajoz, Spain, is one of the largest in Europe.
The Núñez de Balboa photovoltaic plant in Badajoz, Spain, is one of the largest in Europe. With an installed capacity of 500 megawatts, this facility can supply clean energy to 250,000 homes. (Iberdrola)

Spurred by Russia’s war in Ukraine and its own pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, the European Union is aggressively ramping up its use of solar power, installing panels on everything from city rooftops to farmland.

In 2021, solar accounted for just 6% of electricity in the 27-country EU bloc, according to Ember, a climate and energy think tank. However, since Russia cut gas supplies in response to European sanctions over its war in Ukraine, solar has become the fastest-growing source of renewable energy on the continent this year. According to SolarPower Europe, a nonprofit association, new solar projects are “set to overshoot even our highest deployment projections for 2022.”

“The EU generated a record 12% of its electricity from solar this summer, helping to avoid a potential €29 billion in fossil gas imports,” Hannah Broadbent, head of communications for Ember, told Yahoo News. And solar’s remarkable growth shows no signs of stopping in the EU, where SolarPower Europe estimates at least 40 gigawatts of capacity will be installed this year, enough to potentially power upwards of 30 million homes.

By comparison, solar contributed less than 3% of U.S. electricity supplies in 2021, although new incentives are prompting more American utilities to follow in European footsteps.

“There’s a massive solar boom in Europe,” said Matthew Berwind, agrivoltaics project manager at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, the largest applied research institute for solar energy in Europe. “It’s huge.”

Wind turbines spin behind a vast array of solar energy panels.
Wind turbines at a solar energy park near Prenzlau, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

From Portugal to Poland, the Netherlands to Greece, mammoth photovoltaic plants are spreading across fields and gliding across lakes, each facility providing enough electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes. Buildings are being constructed with solar-powered water heaters, photovoltaic windows and photovoltaic roof tiles. Solar panels are appearing atop government buildings, grocery stores

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