(Stacker) – Solar panels have become normalized among landscapes, spotted everywhere from the open spaces of deserts to the rooftops of dense residential areas. Installed on covered carports, parking lots, open fields and even closed landfills, solar power accounted for 3% of US electricity in 2020, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). This figure may seem low today, but it is expected to climb to 20% by 2050.
Stacker analyzed the states with the largest solar economies by analyzing data collected by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). To account for population, states are ranked by the number of solar jobs per 1,000 in the nonfarm sector, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Bureau of Land Management requested in December 2021 that land be designated for solar energy projects in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, all states on the upcoming list. This comes amid President Biden’s clean energy efforts, including plans to optimize existing clean energy projects and build new transmission lines to deploy that energy.
Nationwide, installations are encouraged with incentives such as a federal tax credit ranging from 22% to 30% of the cost of the system. State incentives also exist, such as tax credits and net metering programs that compensate homeowners for the excess electricity they produce.
Keep reading to find out which states have the biggest solar savings.
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10. Rhode Island
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 2.1 (1,010 total jobs)
- Total installed megawatts: 449.0 (#29 nationally)
- Number of installations: 10,006
Solar power generation quadrupled between 2018 and 2020 in Rhode Island, according to the EIA. In 2020, then governor. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order setting a goal of 100% renewable energy in Rhode Island by 2030. In that year, solar power accounted for 6% of the state’s power. Rhode Island even launched a community solar market in 2019 for residents to learn about and participate in community solar projects.
The state could also potentially exceed its energy consumption with solar panels on landfills, gravel pits, parking lots and more, according to a report by Synapse Energy Economics Inc. commissioned by the State Office of Energy Resources. .
9. New Mexico
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 2.3 (1,880 total jobs)
- Total installed megawatts: 1,252.5 (#19 nationally)
- Number of installations: 35,262
New Mexico has emerged as a solar power hub, with the 2022 American Solar Energy Society (ASES) National Solar Conference being held in Albuquerque in June. In April 2021, the state became the first to pass legislation for community solar projects where multiple people purchase an installation and in return receive a credit on their electric bills. Community initiatives like these aim to make renewable energy more accessible by removing barriers such as the upfront costs of installing solar panels.
An ongoing community solar project is at Casa Milagro in Santa Fe, a home for people who are homeless and mentally ill. New Energy Economy, a nonprofit that champions renewable energy, had raised $54,000 for the Casa Milagro project in October 2021, with another $18,000 to be made, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. The organization has also raised enough money for a dozen other community solar projects in the state.
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 2.5 (6,771 total jobs)
- Total installed megawatts: 2,130.9 (#13 nationally)
- Number of installations: 89,831
Like Rhode Island, Colorado aims to be 100% renewable, but with a slightly longer timeline. The Governor’s January 2021 “Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap” aimed to plan how the state could reduce 2005 emissions levels by 90% by 2050. A goal intermediate is to reduce emissions levels by 80% by 2030. In areas affected by a decline in the coal industry, such as North Fork Valley, some hope that boosting solar power will create more jobs , according to KVNF reports.
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 2.5 (7,346 total jobs)
- Total installed megawatts: 5,549.2 (#5 nationally)
- Number of installations: 200,506
Solar power in Arizona created more than 7,300 jobs and enough electricity to power more than 950,000 homes in the third quarter of 2021, according to SEIA. Some large retailers in the state like Albertsons Companies, which owns Albertsons, Safeway and other supermarkets, have chosen to use solar energy to power stores. In 2019, solar panels at nine Albertsons stores in Arizona produced more than four million kilowatt hours of energy each year, according to water and energy company Salt River Project.
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 2.7 (9,495 total jobs)
- Total installed megawatts: 3,486.3 (#8 nationally)
- Number of installations: 121,515
Massachusetts established the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program in 2018 to encourage solar development in the state. Two years later, the state Department of Energy Resources expanded the program from 1,600 to 3,200 megawatts in response to a decline in solar installations. But the Public Utilities Department took more than a year and a half to implement these changes, which went into effect on January 14, 2022. The new order will help the state’s goal of reducing gas emissions greenhouse gas emissions to 45% of its 1990 levels by 2030.
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- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 3.5 (1,046 total jobs)
- Total megawatts installed: 389.8 (#32 nationally)
- Number of installations: 9,306
Vermont is a small state and therefore doesn’t rank highly nationally in terms of total megawatts, but it generates more than 14% of its electricity using solar power, according to SEIA and the ‘EIA. The rapid growth of solar power in Vermont has been driven in part by state net metering policies that give solar users credit for the electricity they generate, as well as other federal incentives. But in late 2020, the state’s utility commission lowered net metering rates and raised concerns among some solar industry officials about the continued expansion of solar power in the state. .
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-farm jobs: 4.1 (2,365 total jobs)
- Total installed megawatts: 1,455.3 (#16 nationally)
- Number of installations: 95,435
Hawaii has long bolstered its solar economy with incentives like a 35% renewable energy tax credit. The incentive, first enacted in 1976, applies to individuals and corporations: the 35% credit is capped at $2,250 for single-family properties and $250,000 for commercial properties.
Real estate firm Real Estate and Living Hawaii estimated that a six-kilowatt solar system could reduce utility bills by up to $300 per month. In 2020, 35% of the energy provided by Hawaiian Electric, which powers 95% of the state’s residents, was renewable. Nearly half of this renewable energy comes from solar. The state stopped net metering in 2015, which caused a drop in the number of active solar companies and residential permits for solar installation. Yet, solar continues to grow in Hawaii. Installations of rooftop solar systems increased by 55% between 2019 and 2020.
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 4.1 (68,677 total jobs)
- Total installed megawatts: 33,208.6 (#1 nationwide)
- Number of installations: 1,390,240
Although surpassed by two other states, California has long been the national leader in solar power. In 2015, the state was the first to install 10 gigawatts of solar power. The state continues to be at the forefront of solar energy, having mandated solar installations on many of its newly constructed buildings. In December 2021, the Bureau of Land Management approved two solar projects in Riverside County that would generate up to 465 watts, enough to power approximately 132,000 homes.
The future of solar power in California could be affected if the state’s Public Utilities Commission passes legislation to eliminate net metering as early as January 27, 2022, the Los Angeles Times reported.
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 4.3 (6,926 total jobs)
- Total installed megawatts: 2,461.5 (#12 nationally)
- Number of installations: 54,826
Utah’s solar capacity grew rapidly in the middle of the last decade, with rooftop solar growing from one megawatt in 2009 to 130 in 2016. The state’s solar growth is being driven by several initiatives.
A renewable energy portfolio target requires investor-owned and municipal utilities, as well as electricity cooperatives, to use renewable energy to represent 20% of their adjusted electricity sales by 2025, but only if it is profitable for the company. . The state also has net metering and tax credits for commercial solar systems. The residential tax credit in Utah expired on December 31, 2021. Even with the rise of solar power, Utah still has a thriving oil and gas industry. The Biden administration’s policies — like last year’s temporary drilling ban and the bipartisan infrastructure deal’s clean energy plan — have raised concerns among industry players. Statement regarding the loss of jobs.
- Solar jobs per 1,000 non-agricultural jobs: 4.5 (6,174 total jobs)
- Total megawatts installed: 4,244.9 (#6 nationally)
- Number of installations: 75,379
In 2010, Nevada’s Silver State North Solar Project became the first-ever solar project approved on public land. The state, with its vast, sunny deserts, has been a hub for solar energy, but not without its hitches.
Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission drastically changed its net metering policies in 2015, resulting in higher fees and less reimbursement for generated solar power. There was an immediate backlash, with three solar companies saying they would leave the state, a blow to the state’s solar economy. After many back and forths, current net metering policies allow solar users to receive 75% of the retail rate for the additional electricity generated by their solar system.
Solar will almost certainly continue to grow in Nevada, as the Bureau of Land Management is considering three proposed solar projects that would power 520,000 homes. But that expansion has prompted pushback from tribal communities, conservationists and others who support clean energy but fear new construction threatens Nevada’s tribal lands and deserts.
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