FOR MORE INFORMATION: Colleen McLoughlin, (404) 370-1764, [email protected]
Athens, GA – Per capita solar power capacity grew 37 percent in Georgia last year, according to a new report by Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center. Solar capacity per capita in Georgia has grown 533 percent since 2012, the second highest growth rate since 2012 in the country.
Lighting the Way III: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014 says every state in the country gets enough sun to meet its energy needs many times over, but the states who ranked the highest for solar per capita were those with policies that allow more homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to “go solar.”
“We’ve got plenty of sunshine. Combine that with plenty of commitment to clean energy policies,” said Colleen McLoughlin, solar campaign organizer with Environment Georgia, “and Georgia can light the way on solar.”
Georgia is ranked number 20 in cumulative solar electricity capacity per capita, falling three spots since last year.
Of the top 10 states listed in the report — Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina — all have renewable energy requirements, and nine have strong laws to allow solar customers to connect to the electricity grid and sell back their excess power.
“Our analysis shows that policy choices are a key driver of solar energy growth,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, co-author of the report. “State and local government policy leadership is closely aligned with success in growing solar energy.”
Solar power tripled in the last three years nationwide, and is adding jobs much faster than the overall economy, employing 2,890 people in Georgia last year. Furthermore, the Obama administration’s recent Clean Power Plan, which sets state-by-state limits on carbon pollution from coal and gas power plants, provides incentives for Georgia to accelerate its development of solar energy. According to Environment Georgia research, solar power could easily meet about half the pollution reduction targets required by the plan.
It has been utility-scale solar that has contributed to Georgia’s swift solar growth. Georgia has over 1.2 million residential and commercial roofs that could host solar panels, but it is only utilizing a small fraction of them.
Georgia has recently made progress in making it easier for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels. In July 2015, the Georgia General Assembly enacted House Bill 57, which allows purchase power agreements between solar homeowners/businesses and the utility company.
“The solar industry nationwide is making tremendous strides,” said solar installer Gerd Schroth. “In Georgia, House Bill 57 will encourage more people to go solar. But we have to be cautious moving forward because the federal tax credit for solar is due to expire in 2016.”
The number one reason many homeowners and businesses hesitate to go solar is because of the upfront cost. Clean energy policies such as net metering, community solar, tax credits and rebates make solar energy more accessible and affordable to everyone, and implementing such policies could make Georgia a regional leader in solar energy.
“Georgia has so much potential to be a real leader in solar,” comments Warren McPherson, Director of Athens Montessori School, which installed solar panels in 2012. “It just makes sense to put solar panels on your building. Not only have our solar panels paid for themselves, but our students, parents and staff are thrilled to have them.”
To boost solar energy development further, Environment Georgia is urging the state to commit to getting 15% of its power from solar energy by 2030. Environment Georgia is calling on Mayor Denson of Athens to lead the way.
“Solar power can play a major role in cutting carbon pollution, while also bringing jobs to the American people,” said McLoughlin. “To ensure a healthier planet for future generations, it’s up to states like ours to chart the course to 100 percent clean energy.”
Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentGeorgiaCenter.org