New Report: California Ranks 6th in the Nation in Solar Power

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Environment California Research & Policy Center

Today, Environment California Research & Policy Center released Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States, a new report highlighting a solar energy boom across the country. The report ranks California 6th in the nation per capita for solar installations. This makes California one of a dozen states that have led the nation in solar energy with supportive policies and a commitment to continued expansion. Last year, solar capacity in California grew by 35% bringing it to a total of 2,901 megawatts.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California. “California’s progress should make us confident that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, set big goals and get good policies on the books.”

Solar is on the rise across the country. America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity as it did in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as it did in 2007. Not only that, but the price of solar panels fell by 26 percent in 2012. Environment California attributes the solar boom to the leadership of California officials and those in other leading states profiled in the report.

“California has consistently been a leader in renewable sources of energy, including solar,” US Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) said. “Our state can continue to be an example for innovation in the energy sphere if we commit ourselves to incentivizing sustainability.”

“More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs,” said Kinman. “With the increasing threat of global warming, we must maintain momentum.”

The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy for the development of the solar industry.

“California’s leadership in promoting renewable energy sources must continue,” said State Senator Marty Block (SD-39). “Our shared vision for protecting the environment and developing future technologies is essential to the next generation’s quality of life, our state’s economy, and setting the trend for the nation’s approach to energy security policy.”

“California can trace its strong and consistent support for solar energy back to the late 1970s, beginning with tax credits for installing solar space and water systems,” said State Assemblymember Toni Atkins (AD-78).  “Today we continue that tradition with the California Solar Initiative offering customers of San Diego Gas & Electric, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison with rebates for a variety of solar systems for homes, businesses, multifamily affordable housing and a goal to install 200,000 new solar hot water systems. It is the public’s strong commitment to clean energy that makes this program so successful.”

The top 12 states, in order, are Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Maryland.

While these twelve states account for only 28 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 85 percent of the nation’s installed solar energy.

The report highlights the strong policies adopted by the top solar states that encouraged homeowners and businesses to “go solar.” Most notably:

  • 11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, which allow customers to offset their electricity bills with onsite solar, and receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.
  • 11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity standards, requiring utilities to provide a minimum amount of their power from renewable sources; and nine of them have solar carve outs, which set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean onsite power.
  • 10  of the 12 have strong statewide interconnection policies.  Interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
  • The majority of the states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

“Today we celebrate the solar success of our state, but also remember that we cannot lose the momentum we have gained,” concluded Kinman. “Right now only a small fraction of our energy comes from solar. By continuing strong policies, California can and will maintain the momentum it has gained, meet and exceed the goal of a million solar roofs, and continue to pave the way for the rest of the country. In order to achieve this goal, we need the continued commitment from our state leaders to keep enabling policies to further increase solar development in California.”


Environment California Research & Policy Center is a statewide nonprofit environmental research and policy organization working to protect California’s air, water and open spaces. More information can be found at