The April/May issue of Home Power magazine features a story by Kelly Davidson entitled “The Best States for Solar” that features criteria for selection one would not expect. It’s not the number of sunny days nor the latitude that makes a good solar state, but strong incentives, regulatory policies that are looking ahead, and strong support for setting renewable energy usage targets. Listed alphabetically, they are:
1. California — Its California Solar Initiative calls for a $3.3 billion, ten-year program that will help CA hold its position as the leading producer of solar technologies in the US, and one of the largest solar markets in the world
2. Colorado — 300 sunny days per year help, but this state maximizes its solar assets by offering rebates, loans, and tax exemptions for PV systems while spurring growth of green collar jobs by encouraging solar tech and PV manufacturing.
3. Connecticut — The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund provides solar incentives, while the state’s RPS (renewable portfolio standard) requires that 27% of the the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.
4. Maryland — The state has jump-started its support of solar energy with increased rebates, causing total installed solar capacity to jump to 1MW.
6. Minnesota — This one was a surprise to me: a far north state with no solar thermal incentives, MN still has hundreds of solar thermal systems. It must be due to their cold weather and the opportunity to save a lot of money on solar hot water and space heating.
7. New Jersey — Jersey is outpacing its neighbor across the Hudson with the largest installed capacity behind California. Who knew?
8. New Mexico — This state is now beginning to realize that its 300-350 sunny days of sunshine are a major asset. Its RPS calls for 20% of its electricity to come from renewables by 2020. Tax credits of up to $9,000 are available for solar thermal and PV installs.
9. Oregon — This state offered a tax credit for solar energy use 30 years ago, and now it is trying to take the lead again, with cash incentives for PV and thermal systems, and the passage of seven clean-energy bills in 2007. Green collar jobs are getting a boost from four PV component-manufacturers’ moves into the state.
10. Pennsylvania — While having to pay homage to the coal industry for political reasons, PA is nevertheless working hard to promote job growth in clean energy by attracting solar companies to the state.
What’s coming for state policy and solar? According to the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), states are turning their attention to solar thermal heat and hot water heating, because of their efficiency and affordability, as well as their stable technology, and focusing on affordable housing to expand the market for solar. For detail on state subsidies, see the very detailed and up to date Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.
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Carol Gulyas is a leader in the renewable energy community in Illinois, where she serves as VP of the Board of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. Recently she co-founded EcoAchievers -- a provider of online education for the renewable energy and sustainable living community. She spent 18 years in the direct marketing industry in New York and Chicago, and is currently a teaching librarian at Columbia College Chicago. Carol grew up in a small town in central Indiana, then lived in the Pacific Northwest, Lima, Peru, and New York City. She is inspired by reducing energy consumption through the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green building technology.