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What the top solar states all have in common

Year after year, the list of states in the top 10 solar installers – the ones taking the lead on solar installation in the United States – seems to stay relatively constant. It should come as no surprise then, that the states that consistently outperform the rest in terms of solar power installed have some striking similarities that allow them to retain their holds on the top spots.

These states are leading the solar revolution, experimenting with new strategies to decrease their reliance on nonrenewable, dirty power sources and move toward a cleaner, less expensive future. 

Leading solar states
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the top 10 states of 2013 in terms of capacity installed were:

1. Arizona
2. Hawaii
3. California
4. Massachusetts
5. North Carolina
6. New Jersey
7. New Mexico
8. Vermont
9. Nevada
10. Delaware

The fact that states like Massachusetts and New Jersey are mainstays on the list, along with more recent arrivals like Vermont and Delaware, proves that even states in colder climates can compete with and even outperform states in warmer climates. Solar power for the home, business, and utility-level capacities has become an increasingly attractive option for citizens in solar-friendly areas. 

Similarities between solar leaders
It's not just the numerous companies springing up throughout the solar PV market value chain, nor is it only about the willingness of home and business owners to invest in solar power for their houses and buildings. Both are important forces in the solar market, but Environment America Research & Policy Center (EARPC) found that strong public policies at the state and local levels of government in each state were the main driving force for solar power adoption in every area – residential, commercial and utility.

They also found that these strong public policies tended to be the same in each state in the top 10 installers for 2013. Here is what the EARPC found.

  • Nine out of the top 10 states had strong net metering policies. In these nine states, consumers were compensated for most, if not all of the excess electricity their PV systems put into the grid. 
  • Nine of the top 10 states made it easy for customers to connect to the grid. Reducing the amount of time and hassle involved in making the switch to solar can seal the deal for consumers on the fence about their decision.
  • All of these states have made it mandatory for utility providers to generate a percentage of their total electricity through solar power. They have also ensured that the amount of power that must come from renewable sources will rise by a small amount each year, making the transition gradual.
  • Nine allow for creative financing options, such as third-party power purchasing agreements and other ways to make purchasing solar power for the home or business easier.

What holds some states back?
While other states, like New York, are considered rising stars in the growing solar market, the transition to cleaner power in the United States as a whole is far from a foregone conclusion. The EARPC noted that lobbying and political pressure from fossil fuel providers are the spearhead on the attack on solar power.

These attacks are usually targeted toward the policies that make solar so attractive – net metering, minimum requirements, and other key policies. States where traditional power source providers have a strong footing have seen stymied growth in the solar market, and even state governments that have previously been solar-friendly have felt the pressure.

Nevertheless, the solar leaders of the United States have remained steadfast in their commitment to clean energy, and continually reaffirm their position by creating and implementing policies that make solar a worthwhile investment for everyone.

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