According to the report, solar photovoltaic capacity in the United States has increased by 120-fold since 2003. By the end of 2013, more the 12,000 megawatts of solar energy were being generated, enough to power 2.2 million homes. The vast majority of this growth has taken place in ten renewable-minded states.
As the summary for the report explains,
“The Top 10 states with the most solar electricity installed per capita account for only 26 percent of the U.S. population but 87 percent of the nation’s total installed solar electricity capacity. These 10 states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina – possess strong policies that are enabling increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to ‘go solar.’”
Sunlight availability was not the most important ingredient in the success of these solar states. Rather, it was the result of lawmakers consciously drafting efficient energy policies.
EcoWatch highlights the policies that most states hold in common. First, strong net metering policies. When a consumer’s solar panels collect more energy than the consumer actually uses, nine of the states compensate the consumer for the excess electricity sent to the grid. At the full retail rate, no less.
Next, nine of the states have strong interconnection policies. This basically means a state can easily introduce new individuals or companies to the grid. In addition, nine of the states allow for third-party power purchase agreements. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for long-term success, all ten of these states have instituted clean energy standards for their utilities – an agreed percentage of their electricity that must be generated by renewable sources.
“Environment America’s new report rightly points out that smart public policies have been key to the development of clean, renewable solar energy–and the accompanying 143,000 America jobs and nearly $15 billion in annual investment,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “The 14,800 megawatts (MW) of solar currently installed in the United States can generate enough pollution-free electricity to displace 18 billion pounds of coal–that’s a win for state economies, Americans’ health and our environment.”
You can read Environment America’s full report here.