In June and July, Southern European nations were impacted by scorching heat waves. The heat waves brought with them wildfires and droughts that resulted in fatalities.
Nonetheless, solar power production in Southern Europe played a crucial role in mitigating the crisis.
Solar power has helped compensate for the energy shortage during the heatwaves of the past few weeks. Southern Europe has experienced record-breaking temperatures and an unprecedented surge in air conditioning demand, as reported by Reuters. The Italian capital of Rome recorded a new all-time high of 41.8 C (107.2 F) on July 18.
Solar power is most effectively harnessed during the summer, when the sun’s radiation is strongest. As a result, the higher temperatures rose, the more solar power that Southern Europe produced. This energy generation fulfilled the electricity demand, which means that solar energy saved Europe.
Referring to the extreme heat situation in Spain, Kristian Ruby, Secretary General of the electricity industry group Eurelectric, explained that “the significant growth in solar power essentially compensates for the peaks caused by air conditioning.”
According to Reuters, Spain dramatically increased solar panel installations last year. Spain’s embrace of solar was motivated by record-high energy prices and a desire for increased energy security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to Spanish electricity grid operator Red Electrica, Spain installed 4.5 gigawatts of solar capacity in 2022, a new record.
Data from Ember shows that solar power accounted for almost 24 percent of Spain’s electricity in July of this year, an increase from 16 percent in July 2022. In July 2023, Spain had the greatest one-month solar output on record.
Spain’s embrace of solar power paid off big. EU Copernicus reported that the Land Surface Temperature (LST) in certain areas of the country exceeded 60 C (140 F) on July 11, 2023.
On the Italian island of Sicily, solar energy played a significant role in meeting the increased demand for cooling during extreme temperatures on July 24. According to Refinitiv data, solar energy accounted for 1.3 GW of energy production, nearly half of the excess demand.
Between July 2022 and July 2023, solar production in Sicily more than doubled. Refinitiv power analyst Nathalie Gerl emphasized that without the additional support from solar energy, the Sicilian grid would have been far less stable.
During peak demand on July 24, solar photovoltaics covered 3.5 GW out of the total 10.35 GW, as reported by the IPTO grid operator.
Greece has also seen a huge surge in solar production. Greeks installed 1.36 GW of new solar capacity in 2022, three times as much as the year before.