12 States Lead the Way On Solar

Home to just 28% of the population, 12 states account for 85% of all solar capacity in the US, reports Environment America.

In terms of solar capacity per capita, the top states are: Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Maryland.

"The progress of these states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Being a leader in pollution-free solar energy means setting big goals and backing them up with good policies," says said Rob Sargent, energy program director with Environment America.

It’s not availability of sunlight that sets these states apart, it’s  the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy that’s resulted in strong take-up of solar.

Solar Top States 2013

Here’s a summary of what these states are doing right:

  • 11 have strong net metering laws that allow customers to lower electric bills by sending solar to the gird, receiving reliable and fair compensation for their excess electricity;
  • 11 have Renewable Portfolio Standards that require utilities to source a percentage of power from renewable sources;
  • 9 include specific targets for solar as part of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, known as a "solar carve-out."  
  • 10 have strong statewide interconnection policies that make it easy for solar to get hooked up to the grid; 
  • Most encourage various financing options to make solar installations affordable, such as Solar leases and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, which allow the cost to be paid back slowly as part of real estate taxes.

These states benefit from having to install fewer transmission lines and from more of the power generated being delivered to the grid, rather than being wasted. Since solar excels most at producing energy during peak demand times, they also benefit from fewer blackouts during the summer.  

Based on what’s working for the "Dazzling Dozen," Environment America urges the federal government to continue key tax credits for solar – such as the Investment Tax Credit – to encourage responsible development of prime solar resources on public lands, and to support research, development and deployment efforts that reduce installation costs and make grid interconnection easier.

“Right now, only a small fraction of our energy comes from solar,” says Sargent. “By setting a bold goal of getting 10% of our energy from the sun by 2030 and adopting strong policies to support that goal, the US can follow in the footsteps of the 12 top solar states and put us on track to becoming a global leader in solar power.”

The US just passed the threshold to 10 GW of solar, powering about 2.4 million homes (equal to the output of about 6 nuclear plants). 

Unfortunately, some of these key policies are under widespread attack with utilities going after net-metering and ALEC and other conservative groups going after Renewable Portfolio Standards.

Read our article, 10 Significant State Policies for Distributed Solar Energy.

Read Environment America’s report, "Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States":

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