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The Top 10 Solar States: You May Be Surprised

Words by Leon Kaye

The clean energy sector has been on an economic roller coaster the past several years, but despite entrenched interests, questions about efficiency and costs, renewables are on the upswing in the U.S.

That includes solar power, which is experiencing a surge in installations large and small—witness SolarCity’s success in recent years. Of course, the regulatory environment has a lot to do with how solar is spread.

So to that end, the writers at Solar Power Rocks, a clearinghouse of solar information from rebates to technology, recently ranked the U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The top 10 solar states may just surprise you—unless you live there and you have seen what is going on in your local community.

In order to gauge the winners and laggers on the solar power front, Dan Hahn and Dave Llorens, the brains behind Solar Power Rocks (SPR), looked at a bevy of factors, including each states renewable portfolio standard (RPS), the cost of electricity, rebates and credits related to solar, tax exemptions and regulations related to grid connectivity.

The top three, and five of the top 10 are in the northeast. New York comes out at #1, due to its wide array of financial incentives available to install solar, and what SPR describes as the “most aggressive RPS in the country.” Massachusetts and Connecticut, however, are not far behind, because of the Bay State’s fast payback time and CT’s generous solar rebates.

Oregon comes in at #4, mostly because of its financial incentives available for the installation of solar and an RPS pushing utilities to include one-fourth of their energy supplies from renewables by 2025. On a side note, Oregon is always an interesting state to watch. For example, it was the first state in the country to build solar arrays along public highways—creating energy in a space that otherwise sits empty.

Rounding out the top five is New Jersey. The Garden State has been pushing businesses and residents to consider clean energy for a decade, and stands out for its tax exemptions as well as one of the most robust Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) programs in the country.

The next five, for the most part, should not raise too many eyebrows. Even though Colorado’s more generous solar rebates have run dry, the state ranks at #6 and offers residents and businesses a strong mix of incentives. Next is Maryland, which boasts a quick payback period for solar along with a strong RPS. Minnesota, however, leaped 14 spots to #8, largely because of its specific requirements for solar energy generation in the state, also known as its “carve out program.” Tiny Vermont and New Mexico come in with the ninth and tenth rankings.

What may startle some readers is the fact states such as California and Hawaii are not in the top 10, though #12 and #17, respectively, for those states is not too shabby.

As for the bottom six, well, they are either big coal-producing states or have barely any laws or incentives on the books. Kentucky and West Virginia are listed at #46 and #47, with Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas taking the next few rankings. Idaho is last in line at #51.

Granted, this list is subjective. Those who are only concerned about the amount of energy generated from the sun can take a look at the Solar Energy Industries Association’s list. Naturally, California ranks number one thanks to its size, but Arizona, North Carolina and Texas make the top 10—which shows that while regulations, incentives and laws make a difference, sunshine is still a factor on where solar panels make their appearance on the local landscape.

After a year in the Middle East and Latin America, Leon Kaye is based in California again. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Other thoughts of his are on his site, greengopost.com.

Image credit:BLM

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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