In its most recent annual report on solar growth in states Environment America found a number of important new developments. Among them: in California, Hawaii, and Arizona solar now generates more than 5 percent of total electricity consumption; The top 10 states with the most solar power per person represent only 26 percent of the population but 86 percent of installed solar in the U.S.; and California, New Jersey and Arizona each have more than 1 gigawatt of solar installed.
"With a healthy mix of sunshine and good clean energy policies on the books, states are lighting the way when it comes to solar," said Bret Fanshaw, Solar Program Coordinator with Environment America. "Solar power can play a major role in the biggest step our country has ever taken to address climate change," he said.Solar rankings per capita. Courtesy Environment AmericaThe report, Lighting the Way III: The Top States that Helped Drive America's Solar Energy Boom in 2014, found that the top states for solar per capita in 2014 were: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Vermont.
"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."
Indeed, all of the states in the top 10 have renewable energy standards, requiring solar, wind and other renewable forms of energy. Of the 10 only one, North Carolina, does not have a net-metering policy in place.
While California had nearly 10 gigawatts of solar installed by the end of 2014 (it installed more than 4 gigawatts of solar in 2014 alone, the report stated), Hawaii led the pack on a per capita basis with 312 watts of solar power installed per person. On that basis California was fourth with 257 watts of solar power per person installed. Arizona, with 307 watts per person, and Nevada, with 278 watts per person installed, were ahead of California. For the past two years Arizona had led the country in terms of solar per capita. Colorado was tenth with 74 watts of solar installed per capita.
"We are pleased to see the hard work and investment in securing Hawaii's clean energy future is paying off," said Hawaii Governor David Ige. "We are looking forward to continuing our leadership role in clean energy through ambitious policies such as our commitment to achieving 100 percent renewable energy in the electricity sector by 2045."
The report observed that despite the advances solar is making it's still facing a lot of headwinds. "The continued success of solar power has been threatened by recent attacks on net metering and other key solar policies by fossil fuel interests and electric utilities in some states, including in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin, among others," Environment America said.
The organization also noted that most recently utility commissions in Nevada and Colorado chose to uphold their net-metering laws. Moreover states are still expanding their plans for clean energy. Hawaii recently passed a 100 percent renewable energy standard, Vermont passed a 75 percent renewable energy standard with the nation's strongest solar carve out and California is considering a 50 renewable energy standard bill.