Preserving the Environment

These 10 States Are Leading the Way in Solar Power. What’s Their Secret?

August 12, 2014
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These 10 States Are Leading the Way in Solar Power. What’s Their Secret?
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And what can the other 40 states learn from them?

Solar power has made incredible progress here in the U.S. According to a new report from Environment America. In the last 10 years, solar panel capacity has increased more than 120-fold. In just 2011 to 2013 alone, solar power has tripled.

Incredibly, 10 standout states are responsible for a big chunk of that growth.

The Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013 report notes that even though these 10 states account for only 26 percent of the U.S. population, they’re responsible for a whopping 87 percent of the county’s solar boom.

The states deserving a standing ovation? Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina, all of which are doing a massive part in helping the entire country curb its reliance on dirty (not to mention, increasingly expensive) fossil fuels by harnessing the power of the sun.

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Here are some of the most interesting points and lessons (highlighted in bold) from the Environment America report. Perhaps the states that didn’t make the cut should take note.

– The report emphasizes that the most important factor of solar success is due to support from state and local governments, who have created policies that push for growth in renewables. For example, the report states that New Jersey has a target of obtaining 4.1 percent of its electricity from the sun by 2028. California has an extremely high renewable energy target — 33 percent — by 2020.

– Speaking of California, the Golden State state is also expanding its battery storage technology so residents can rely on the sun’s power even after it sets, the report finds.

– Several states in the top 10 also encourage small businesses and individual homeowners to go solar by paying them for the renewable energy they create. For instance, Hawaii’s feed-in tariff pays 21.8 cents per kilowatt-hour for small-scale residential solar projects, the report says. Clearly, it really does pay to be green.

– Top-ranked Arizona has the highest solar electricity capacity per capita, with 275 watts of solar electricity capacity per resident — about seven times as much solar electricity capacity per person compared to the national average. So why is Arizona a solar success story? According to the report, the state was the first to require utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their electricity from solar energy. However, the Arizona Corporation Commission (the state’s utility regulator) recently voted to end tax incentives which could hurt businesses and residents who want to go solar, the report points out.

– It’s no surprise that sun-spoiled western states rank near the top, but even small eastern states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware have made the cut thanks to high electricity prices as well as public concern about pollution and clean energy. It’s clear that many Americans want a clean and efficient energy future, and these states are responding to the call.

– North Carolina rounded out the top 10 due to its several large-scale solar energy installations by utilities, which shot the state’s solar capacity per-capita by more than 140 percent since 2012, the report says. The state also allows clean energy companies to compete utilities and lets consumers pick their energy supplier.

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The big takeaway is that these states and their local governments have shown solid support and enacted polices that encourage and incentivize businesses, individuals and communities to make the switch to solar.

With the Obama administration’s new limits on emissions, the whole country needs to do their part. Especially since the planet is only getting hotter. Luckily, they can look to these 10 states that are truly lighting the way.

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