The United States’ solar power market is expected to grow up to 50 percent this year, according to the nation’s largest solar industry trade association. Although many utilities are turning to solar power as an alternative to fossil fuels, there has also been a huge boom in residential installations in recent years. If you’re the type of person who thinks powering your home with solar energy is a keen idea, you may want to give some thought to where you live before you take the plunge. When it comes to states which are “best” for residential solar power, it doesn’t just mean a place with a lot of sunshine - although certainly that is a key element.
Determining which are the best states for residential solar power is a bit subjective, depending on your criteria, and it’s also a moving target as state and local governments make decisions about tax credits and rebate plans, and as supply and demand impact costs in different regions. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) publishes a comprehensive report of solar power policies by state, making it easy to check out who does what where and how that might impact a new solar power installation.
Although the solar industry is rapidly changing, the best states for new residential solar installs haven’t shifted much over time. Though some states may move up or down in the list from year to year, the cream of the crop is a fairly consistent list. After comparing annual sunshine, net metering and interconnection, and financial incentives in the form of rebates and tax credits, these are the top 5 states in the country for residential solar power.
Although Massachusetts may not offer the aggressive tax credits and rebates that solar industry leaders would like to see (although it does offer some), the state comes out ahead in solar potential on the whole. On annual average, the state is 58 percent sunny, clearing the first hurdle. That’s a big part of the reason that Google’s Project Sunroof, the free online calculator that helps assess a property’s solar power capacity, is based in Boston. Additionally, Massachusetts rates high in net metering and interconnection, which are the two key components of connecting a residential system to the grid to sell back ‘extra’ electricity.
2. New York
Some in the industry say New York sets the standard in terms of solar power policies. This is in part due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s strong push toward a goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, which helped bolster the solar power industry in the state. New York could stretch further in its solar carve out program, and potentially capture the #1 slot in future versions of this list.
3. New Jersey
New Jersey hasn’t always been a leader in residential solar power, but the little state has made progress by leaps and bounds in recent years, adopting many policies that encourage growth in the industry. It also scores well with solar carve-out, an incentive program used in many states that allows homeowners to earn credits based on the amount of energy they produce. Combine smart policies with average annual sunshine of 56 percent, and the result is an ideal place to set up a home solar power system.
Despite the Pacific Northwest’s reputation for heavy rains and fog, Oregon receives, on average, around 48 percent sunshine throughout the year. In recent years, the state has enacted several encouraging policies that make solar power an attractive option for homeowners, but that might change in the future. Oregon’s state solar tax credit ends in 2017 and, if new legislation isn’t passed soon, it could lose its spot to another state that is getting on board with friendly solar power policies.
5. New Mexico
Among the sunniest of all states, New Mexico’s 76 percent sun alone seems like enough to make a rooftop solar system a shoe-in. State leaders have made a commitment to producing 4 percent of the state’s electricity from solar energy by 2020, and a big state tax credit eases the burden of new residential installations. What New Mexico lacks in solar rebates, it makes up for in tax credits and exemptions, along with stellar net metering and interconnection programs.