French Solar PV Installations Now Rival Those in California

By Paul Gipe


Once a laggard in renewable energy, France now rivals California in total installed capacity of solar photovoltaics (solar PV).

France, on a per capita basis, has installed more than twice the solar PV as the United States through mid year.

The United States remains a major world market for solar PV though it continues to fall further behind Germany and Italy.

California is currently North America’s leader in solar PV development, followed by New Jersey and Ontario, Canada.

France, like its European counterparts in Germany and Italy, use a differentiated system of feed-in tariffs to pay generators for their solar electricity. California and the United States use a complex mix of tax credits, grants, and net-metering.

The mid-year report by Soler, the French association of solar professionals, found 1,473 MW of solar PV operating in Metropolitan France, and another 200 MW in former French colonies.

The population of California is fast approaching 40 million people. France has a population of about 60 million inhabitants. The population of the US now exceeds 300 million.


The California Public Utility Commission calculates that there is about 1,000 MWAC through September. This is equivalent to 1,176 MWDC.

The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that the US will install about 2,000 MW in 2011. Assuming the installations are equally distributed throughout the year, by the end of June there was about 3,150 MW operating in the country.

Soler’s recent report Etat des lieux du parc photovoltaïque français au 30 juin 2011 summarized installations by size class comparable to the differing feed-in tariff tranches used in France.

One-third of total capacity has been installed on home rooftops. Nearly half of all solar PV capacity operating in France has been installed by farmers and homeowners. Three-fourths of all solar PV capacity in France has been installed in distributed applications, mostly on rooftops.


There are 1,800 MW of new solar PV projects awaiting grid connection in a market that until recently was controlled by the state-owned utility Electricité de France (EdF). This backlog is down substantially from more than 3,500 MW last year.

At the current rate, France will install 1,300 MW of solar PV in 2011. This is in line with a projection by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, France’s Minister for Ecology, Sustainability, and Transport. She estimated that France would install from 1,000 MW to 1,500 MW of new solar PV in both 2011 and in 2012.

France now has the seventh-largest installed solar PV capacity in the world, after Germany, Spain, Japan, Italy, the USA, and the Czech Republic.

Soler: Etat des lieux du parc photovoltaïque français au 30 juin 2011