Top Solar States

After looking into the development of renewable energy infrastructures around the world, I’d like to take a closer look at our own progress here at home.  Which states are ramping up the clean energy production, and how?

Let’s look at the top 5 States for Solar Energy, photovoltaic and otherwise:

1. California – 1032.7 MW

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see California at the top of this list.  The state is well-known for its progressive energy policies and one of the most aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standards of any state (target of reaching 33% renewable by 2020).  California has doubled the amount of solar capacity since 2009, and is set to increase it another 400 megawatts with the massive new 400 Ivanpah solar thermal plant coming online this year.  The Ivanpah plant is a unique array in the desert which directs the heat of the sun towards one of three towers, where it is absorbed, rather than converting sunlight directly to electricity.  In this tower, there is salt that is melted (at around 100 degrees).   The salt then heats water into steam which turns a generator, just like in a coal or nuclear plant.  But much, much cleaner.

The benefit of solar thermal is that it produces constant base-load electricity, meaning that it can keep going when the sun is not out.  The downside is that it takes a huge chunk of land and a lot of moving parts.  California could spare the land in the desert near the Nevada border, but had to displace some endangered tortoises to do so.

 

2. Arizona – 710.3 MW

Arizona is making good use of their abundant sunshine!  While the entire country gets enough solar energy to make PV projects worthwhile, the southwest receives the most.  The insolation (a measure of solar energy that an area gets, usually measured in kWh per square meter) of the southwest is the highest in the nation.  Because of this, companies are flocking there with projects totaling 13.5 Gigawatts seeking permission to build in Arizona alone!

Solar Insolation Map

3. New Jersey – 414 MW

New Jersey is the big surprise on this list, coming in 3rd for solar production, despite not having a lot of land area (47th state in size) and ranking lower on the scale of  insolation as well.  In fact, if this little state were considered to be its own country, it would be in the top 10 solar producers in the world!

Large array on a NJ public school

Large array on a NJ public school

So how did New Jersey become such a leader in the solar field?  The state committed to growing the industry through a Renewable Energy Standard of 22.5% by 2012, and one of the best net-metering rules in the country (no cap).

4.  Nevada: 198 MW

Back to the southwest, Nevada comes in at 4th for top solar producers.  Very high insolation and open desert space make the area prime for harvesting the sun!

Nellis power plant

14 MW Nellis power plant

5. North Carolina 131.9 MW

North Carolina  comes in as the next surprise on the list.  North Carolina has modest RPS of reaching 12.5% renewable energy by 2021, so what exactly has driven the solar boom in this state?  Much like New Jersey, North Carolina used a myriad of incentives to encourage growth, including tax breaks and incentives to land owners to lease their land for wind farms.

And the rest of the top ten is:

6. Massachusetts: 128.9 MW – Another small northeastern state!

7. Hawaii: 108.7 MW – With the highest energy costs in the country, no wonder Hawaii is looking to alternatives!

8. Maryland: 74.3 MW

9. Colorado: 69.9 MW

10. Texas: 64.1 MW

See your state on the list?  What is driving solar growth in your state?

Sources:

http://www.seia.org/research-resources/2012-top-10-solar-states

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/11/08/3652804/farmers-grow-profits-with-a-new.html

http://www.solarenergy.net/News/9250902-new-jersey-solar-energy-system-payback-in-1.5-years.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_portfolio_standard

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/06/02/is-your-state-top-solar-energy-producer/

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/01/29/top-solar-states-vs-top-solar-countries-cleantechnica-exclusive/

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