Vancouver, WA. – Per capita solar power capacity grew 56% percent in Washington last year, according to a new report by Environment Washington Research & Policy Center. The growth rate put the state 15th in the country for solar power capacity per person added in 2014, but Washington remains stuck in the middle of the pack at 25th for total solar capacity and total solar capacity installed in 2014.
Despite its great potential in Washington state, solar power faces obstacles without continued and greater leadership from our elected officials.
Lighting the Way III: The Top Ten 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 increasing numbers of 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 Cecile Gernez, Solar Campaign Organizer with Environment Washington, “and Washington can light the way on solar.”
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, report co-author. “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 2,400 people in Washington last year.
“How cool to be in such a fast growing industry with such highly innovative products that get a lot of attention,” said Rick Campfield, CEO of SunModo. “And to be right here in Clark County and providing jobs in our local region, it can only get better.”
But Washington state still lags behind neighbors like Oregon and less sunny locales like New Jersey. Both the Washington state sales tax exemption and production incentive will expire in the next few years. By extending these incentives and increasing our renewable energy standard with a carve-out – or minimum standard – for solar energy, Washington can begin to lead.
To boost solar energy development further, Environment Washington is urging state leaders to commit to sourcing 10% of our energy from Solar by 2025.
The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sets state-by-state limits on carbon pollution from coal and gas power plants and was finalized last month, also provides incentives for Washington to accelerate its development of solar energy. According to Environment Washington research, solar power could easily meet about half the pollution reduction targets required by the plan.
“Solar power can play a major role in the biggest step our country has ever taken to address climate change,” said Gernez. “That’s why our state legislators should ensure we become leaders, not laggards, when it comes to clean energy”
Environment Washington Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentWashingtoncenter.org