New report: Washington ranks 25th in the nation for solar power

Media Contacts
Anusha Narayanan

Environment Washington

Seattle – Today, Environment Washington 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. Despite high solar potential, Washington State, a leader in producing wind energy, is ranked 25th in the Country for solar power, producing less than one percent of its total energy from the sun.  

“Washington has vast untapped potential for solar energy,” said Anusha Narayanan, Program Associate with Environment Washington. “Washington is an environmental leader when it comes to protecting our beautiful places. There is no reason why we cannot also be a leader in producing clean and pollution-free energy like solar. “

“With the most pro-solar governor in America, it is time for Washington State to start doing its part,” says Denis Hayes, President of the Bullitt Foundation. “The Bullitt Center is proving that you can power a six-story office building on the sunbeams that falls on its roof – even in Seattle. There is no excuse for Washington to lag behind New Jersey!” 

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, most notably:

  • 11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, allowing customers to offset their electric bills with 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, reducing the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
  • The majority of the top solar states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing. 

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.  Much of this can be attributed to strong net metering policies and renewable electricity standards across states including Washington. 

“Solar in Washington has been growing at a very sustainable rate, with more and more people going solar every year,” says Howard Lamb, founder of Sunergy Systems. “Last year alone witnessed a 75% growth rate, but we need more focus from the state and Legislature before solar can become mainstream like hybrid and electric vehicles are. With our long sunny summer days and temperate temperatures, Washington has the potential to be one of the nation’s vibrant solar economies like California and Colorado. Washingtonians want smart solar policies that lead to 150,000 solar rooftops by 2020 and that keep the solar jobs local, along with maintaining a sustainable solar economy like we currently have!”

“Right now, only an incredibly small fraction of our energy comes from solar,” concluded Narayanan. “With commitment from our state officials to enable policies that grow solar development, Washington could lead the nation. The looming threat of climate change is a reminder that Washington must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by focusing our attention on clean and renewable energy sources like solar. “