I think you all are going to love this one. But before getting into the numbers and charts, here’s one quick caveat on the ranking below: my solar power installation data for the countries was for the end of 2011, whereas my solar power installation data for the states (courtesy of GTM Research, via Scott Burger) was for the end of Q3 2012. So, basically, the states had a 9-month advantage (which can be rather significant when it comes to solar — the fastest growing energy industry).
With that out of the way, let’s take a look out how the top solar power countries in the world (per capita) compare to the top solar power states (per capita):
Below’s a longer list. But it’s a bit more difficult to read in this post, so click here view the image in full size:
Here are the actual numbers:
There are many factors that go into making a state or country a solar power leader — policy, solar insolation, electricity rates, etc. — but I think the list above shows that the strongest factor today is policy. With strong feed-in tariff policies, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Belgium have a strong lead (even with a 9-month disadvantage compared to the American states). An EU-wide cap and trade system that puts a price on fossil fuel pollution is also a help.
In the US, Arizona and New Jersey have had strong net metering policies as well as Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that have encouraged solar adoption. New Jersey’s RPS includes a specific requirement for solar, which it has aimed to achieve through the use of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). Arizona dropped its solar requirement in its RPS years ago, but it has a distributed generation requirement, which has led it to encourage home solar power through net metering (mentioned above), tax credits, and rebates. Meanwhile, Hawaii, with very high electricity prices (the highest in the US) and good solar insolation, has become the first state in the US to hit solar grid parity. Hawaii has also implemented solar tax credits, a feed-in tariff, and net metering. However, as SEIA notes, “interconnection continues to be an issue as Hawaiian utilities have imposed restrictions to avoid solar generators exceeding 15% of load on their systems.” So, you can see that, even in leading solar power states, there are big hurdles to overcome.
Of course, there are other ways to calculate relative leadership in solar power. Instead of comparing solar power capacity to population, we could compare it to GDP, electricity production, or other factors. If you want to help me create more solar power rankings, drop a comment below!