This year is only about half over, but already U.S. companies have installed 723 megawatts (MW) of solar energy across the country. This means that solar energy accounted for over 48 percent of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S. last quarter, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
While the entire country benefits from increased solar energy capacity, the placement of these renewable energy facilities is anything but uniform. Because energy policies, like Renewable Energy Standards or tax incentives, vary widely from state to state, it’s hard to know whether you’re living in a region that’s dying to expand their solar offering, or doing their best to kill it.
But never fear, yet another ranking is here!
The team at SolarPowerRocks.com spent what must have been a grueling couple of weeks sifting through five years of solar industry statistics in order to find out what it takes to go solar across the country. The result is a detailed state by state ranking that’s meant to “recognize and reward legislatures for admirable solar energy policy while holding them accountable to do better.”
You might be surprised to learn who’s truly leading the pack, and who’s trailing way behind. Without further ado, the five best (and worst) states for solar energy.
1. Massachusetts – With an impressive 4.4 out of 5, Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states where homeowners have the option of leasing solar panels for rather than buying them outright. As you might imagine, this puts a residential solar system within the financial reach of many who might otherwise not be able to purchase one. Massachusetts also offers several tempting rebates and tax incentives for choosing solar.
2. Maryland – With a 4.3 out of 5, Maryland was only narrowly edged out of the top spot by Massachusetts. With good background energy policies, strong financial incentives, and the availability of solar leases, the only thing holding Maryland back is a high threshold for earning those incentives. Currently, only systems of at least 20 kilowatts (much bigger than the average home system) qualify.
3. New York – Although it ties Maryland with a 4.3 out of 5, New York has blazed its own trail when it comes to state rebate and tax credit programs designed to help those who go solar achieve even faster payback time frames.
4. Delaware – A score of 4.05 out of 5 is nothing to sneeze at, especially because it doesn’t adequately show how far Delaware has come in just a few short years. Since 2010, all of the state’s renewable energy policies, from tax incentives to the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), have matured significantly. One of the only things holding it back is the lack of a property tax exemption to save homeowners even more money on an annual basis.
5. Colorado – As the home of one of the first Renewables Portfolio Standards in the country, it’s no surprise that Colorado is in the top five. With a score of 3.7 out of 5, Colorado recently strengthened its successful RPS, mandating 30 percent renewable energy by 2020. Although financial incentives are available from the handful of utility companies operating in the state, Colorado’s solar future would benefit from state rebates and tax credits that could bring the sticker price of installation way down for residents.
1. Oklahoma – Scoring only .75 out of 5, this state claims it loves solar but doesn’t back it up with policy or action. Although it has a goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2015, it’s all voluntary — and there’s no penalty for utilities that refuse to comply.
2. Arkansas – Also earning a meager .75 out of 5, Arkansas only escaped last place by having a single net metering policy in place (net metering is a billing arrangement where those with solar arrays can sell excess electricity back to the utility for the same amount they are charged to consume it.)
3. Mississippi – Once again, this straggler earned a .75 out of 5. Although there are some solar rebate policies in place here, they’re reserved only for customers of TVA, the federally owned utility that was created way back in the 1930′s. Not a TVA customer? No incentives for you.
4. North Dakota - Finally, this state raises the bar a tiny, tiny bit with a score of .8 out of 5. Although North Dakota has several solar policies in place, most are completely weak. The only bright spot is strong property tax exemption –100% of the value of the solar power system for 5 years.
5. Idaho – Moving up just another millimeter is Idaho with a score of .9 out of 5. Although this state has only one piece of solar policy in place, it’s a pretty robust one: a state income tax deduction for 40 percent of the cost of the project in the first year, and 20 percent each year for the next three years.
Learn more about your state’s solar policy, and the methodology behind the rankings here.
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