2013 State Solar Power Rankings 0


We’ve updated our past 5 years of data and then compiled a state-by-state rating of what it takes to go solar across the country.

The information out there was confusing, still is, and it’s been our mission to clear everything up for you since 2007.

The above image may turn back the clock for some of you to the days when you were so bored, you decided to watch the graphical representation of your hard drive defragmenting in Windows 95. Here, see the entire ridiculous data we’ve barfed onto the ugliest spreadsheet we could make. Click to enlarge (if you dare) Take heart, our aim is not to put you to sleep or reawaken some technological PTSD, yet to inform, enlighten, and inspire you to take action regarding your local solar energy policy.

With that mission always at the forefront of our minds, we present to you our:


That’s right, just like the NBA, NFL, and NHL teams we take an even more scientific approach to the problem.

What is the problem you ask?

The problem is we have very segmented solar energy policy across the country.

All those swaths of color you see in the John Travolta dance floor image above represent significant differences in how each state legislature has addressed similar aspects of solar energy policy.

To address this problem, we’ve asked the following question:

“How do we recognize and reward legislatures for admirable solar energy policy while holding them accountable to do better?”
The best answer to that question is the report you are just getting started reading about!

Without us comparing the impact of their decisions in an apples to apples sort of way, no state would be held accountable for poor policy, because most people wouldn’t take the time to understand why an RPS solar carve out is something worth enacting into law compared to a property tax exemption.

You might be asking yourself, “huh, that seems pretty neat. But what are these things?” Please see the bottom of the post for more detailed information about the ranking criteria. And now:


1 MASSACHUSETTS 4.45/5.0 Go ahead and give yourself a big ole’ pat on the proverbial back Massachusetts, you’re tops in the nation for solar power! With an overall score of approximately 4.4 out of 5 possible suns (the other stars are great, but it’s ours that provides all the clean renewable energy), Massachusetts narrowly edges out Maryland and New York as the friendliest state in the nation for investing in a residential solar power system. Just go look at the image at the top of the post. Seriously, go take a peek. We know there’s a lot of colors and a lot of info there, but check out that Massachusetts row … it’s just a sea of green, friend. And a lot of that green for high marks also means more green for your wallet.If you’re smart enough to switch to solar that is!Fitting for the overall champ, Massachusetts is part of the small minority of states where you have the option of leasing solar panels for your residential system. How exactly do you lease solar panels, and why can it save you so much up front money? Glad you asked, friend! We put together this handy guide explaining the whole deal; fill out one quick form and we can even connect you with expert installers in your area and help you sort through all the info to find the best offer and the biggest savings.
2 MARYLAND 4.3/5.0 It may not be quite enough to come in at number one, but Maryland’s solar score is sparkling indeed! In fact, with almost perfect background policies and strong financial incentives, Maryland’s 4.3 suns darn near took the title from its neighbor to the north. The only thing missing in The Old Line State’s solar policy is a bit lower of a line for the state tax credit. Under the current minimum size of at least 20 kilowatts (kW), nearly no residential systems, which average about 5 kW, are going to qualify for the program.We really can’t be too hard on that single flaw though. As you can see on our summary chart, Maryland receives no less than a strong “B” grade in every other category. So ya … maybe there’s room for improvement, but not that much room. In fact, most states should take Maryland as an example of first-rate solar policy in most areas.That includes solar leasing, by the way. Solar leases were first offered in the state in 2011, and now the industry’s national leaders are up and running here. Click here for more a free estimate on a solar lease and how it can help you switch to solar power for virtually no money down.
3 NEW YORK 4.3/5.0 Start spreading the news … New York’s leading the way … OK. OK. Our terrible attempts at Sinatra humor aside, New York really is near tops in solar policy. Essentially in a tie with Maryland with 4.3 suns, New York rounds out the top 3 solar states that, as you saw above, stand a head above even the very best of the rest.Never content to follow the mold, the Empire state carved its own path to solar success; where Maryland and Massachusetts rest their solar-financial laurels largely on the backs of impressive performance payment programs, New York ratchets up the state rebate and tax credit programs to achieve even faster payback timeframes. The rebates and tax incentives are so good, in fact, that even without performance payments New York might easily have taken our top spot if the net metering and interconnection regulations were just a tad stronger for residential customers like you.With a lighting-quick payback of 6 years, the time has never been better to make the environmentally-friendly leap to producing your own solar power in New York. That’s especially true with all the experienced installers competing to give the biggest savings to solar lease customers across the state and in the major urban areas, including New York City (duh!) and the Albany region.
4 DELAWARE 4.05/5.0 Delaware is one of the biggest winners compared to our last round of rankings in 2010. With improvements to the state’s performance incentives; improvements to the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS); and revamped net metering and interconnection regulations, the solar policies and cash carrots finally match the high energy prices that have always kept payback time frames pretty strong here.With a final score of about 4 suns even, we can’t quite put Delaware in the same class as the top 3. Maybe if there were a property tax exemption to save homeowners money every year … (quick what’s the emoticon for “wink wink, nudge nudge”?) Thankfully not missing are the low and zero upfront cost solar lease deals found in Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York; one of the nation’s largest solar lease companies set up shop in Delaware just last year. Just click here to get a free consultation and estimate on how much money a zero-down lease can save you.
5 COLORADO 3.7/5.0 It may not make the very top of the list, but with a final score of 3.7 suns the Rocky Mountain State remains high indeed in our State Solar Power Rankings, and we can’t think of a more apt state to round out the top 5. As readers of SPR know, Colorado has been a trend-setter in promoting residential solar power since the very beginning, setting an example for the rest of the country with the nation’s first statewide Renewables Portfolio Standard way back in 2004. With a current mandate of 30% renewable energy by 2020, that Standard remains one of the strongest RPS’s in the nation, and the backbone of Colorado’s strong solar policy. The only major piece missing from Colorado’s solar support arsenal is more money back in the form of state rebates and tax credits to bring down initial coasts for Coloradans that don’t qualify for the rebates offered by Xcel Energy and a handful of the state’s other utilities. As much as we admire the state’s past and present accomplishments, we can’t see Colorado getting back into the top 3 until every one of the state’s residents is getting those up-front discounts. One the other hand, it’s also hard to see Colorado dropping out of the top 5 when residents can switch to solar for a fraction of the normal price, even without utility rebates. We can’t say for certain that this was the very first place where you could lease solar panels, but it was definitely one of them. Industry leaders are up and running in The Rocky Mountain State with packages to fit every homeowner, all the way to zero money down. Go grab one of our free quotes (or grab bunches of them … they’re free!) and see for yourself.
6 WASHINGTON D.C. 3.65/5.0 Washington D.C. City politics may be controversial in our nation’s capital, but solar policy certainly is not. While the District barely misses out on a top 5 ranking, its 3.6 suns ranks D.C. ahead of progressive energy policy stalwarts California and New Jersey, among others, and “big sun” states like Arizona and New Mexico. The high rating rests largely on the strength of an exceptional city-wide performance payment incentive and rebate plan that is built directly into the District’s RPS and its solar carve-out (one of the strongest in the nation at 2.5% solar power mandated by 2023). Between the rebate and the ongoing Renewable Energy Credit (REC) (LINK) payments, payback timeframe is a zippity-quick five years, nearly tops in the country. The solar lease market is still in the early stages in D.C., but at least one national company is offering residential packages. If past successes in solar-friendly states are any indication, the number of lease offers available in the District (and other new East Coast markets) will only grow from here.
7 ARIZONA 3.6/5.0 Arizona OK, let’s be fair … Arizona has a lot going in its favor for any sort of rankings related to solar power. Just don’t let all that sunshine fool you; state legislators have done a lot to make Arizona and its 3.6 suns one of the ten best states in the nation for residential solar power. 100% sales and property tax exemptions, and a top-notch net metering law for residential customers bolster a patchwork of good-enough utility company rebates, a small state tax credit, and of course, all those clear sunny days. Given everything Arizona solar’s got going on, it’s no surprise that several of the big solar lease companies are competing for customers across the state’s markets. Fill out one of our easy free quote forms and we can get you connected to all those offers and more, all from experts in your area.
8 NEW MEXICO 3.55/5.0 New Mexico Yep, it sure doesn’t hurt to get a lot of sunshine. Helping to round out the meat of our top 10, here’s another sun belt state with a lot more going for it than just clear desert skies. Most of the state’s policies are solid yet unremarkable but just check out that solar carve-out in New Mexico’s RPS; 4% by 2020! That’s one of the two or three best solar mandates in the country, and it has a lot to do with New Mexico’s strong score of 3.5 suns. We know. We know. We geek out about really geeky things here at SPR. But seriously … 4% by 2020! Unfortunately New Mexico is farther behind its geographic and solar-rank neighbor when it comes to solar leases. Despite friendly policies and tons of sun, none of the major leasing companies are currently operating in New Mexico.
9 NEW JERSEY 3.5/5.0 Most people don’t think of gardens anymore when you bring up the Garden State, but they should be thinking of sunshine and solar power. A few years ago New jersey would’ve been in the top 5, with a soaring Solar REC market speeding payback time frames into the single digits. Recent legislative amendments have, much to our dismay, crippled that market, but what remains in available performance payments is enough to buttress a top-notch RPS and solid background policies and keep New Jersey narrowly inside our top 10 with a final score of 3.45 suns. We have high hopes that the state lawmakers in Trenton won’t let this perennial solar power leader slip any further. In the meantime, we’re confident that the availability of no-money down lease packages will keep the future bright for at least residential solar power converts.Go fill out one easy form to get connected to expert installers in your area, and see for yourself.
10 ILLINOIS 3.46/5.0 Perhaps a bit of a surprise state to sneak into our top 10 with 3.4 suns, Illinois has done just enough to squeak payback time frames into the single digits for the average residential system. While none of the policies or incentives that made that happen will make you stop and go “wow,” it’s an accomplishment that shouldn’t be overlooked. Only 11 states have managed to keep average time to payback below 10 years, and that list includes a lot of states that get more sunshine, or charge more for electricity than Illinois. Things were even better before, like New Jersey, the state Solar REC market took a turn for the south. Sadly, unlike New Jersey, none of the big guys are doing solar lease deals in Illinois right now. At least one utility with Illinois customers has launched its own solar lease pilot program though, so be sure to check that out, right after you fill out one of our quick forms for free solar quotes from experts in your neighborhood.
11 OREGON 3.45/5.0 Nearly in a dead heat with Illinois at 3.4 suns, The Beaver State narrowly misses out on our 2013 Top 10. Wait, what? Oregon near the top of solar power rankings?! When most people think of Oregon, they typically don’t think of sun and sky. But solar rays aren’t everything in solar power, friends. With a strong state rebate program and an even stronger state tax credit, Oregon is able to harness the sun it does have into an excellent 10-year payback timeframe. Best of all, in addition to that overall rosy outlook for solar power in Oregon, you can now get in on all those clean, green, savings for zero down. Fill out one of our simple forms and we’ll hook you up with an expert to explain (for free!) how to get the most money for the lease up-front cost.
12 CALIFORNIA 3.4/5.0 With the largest population of any state (by a pretty hefty margin) and the 5th largest economy in the world, we’re sure everyone who cares about spreading clean, green solar power just breathed a sigh of relief to see California posting a respectable 12th place in our power rankings, with a final score just a smidge under 3.4 suns. While the overall finish is strong, California got to its solid 10-year payback timeframe mostly on the back of energy prices comfortably above the national average. The support policies in place could be improved a great deal. For a look at what above-average policies mixed with above-average energy prices looks like, just go take a look at most of our top 5 ranked states! While not all of the solar policies that should be in place are, what California does have is an open and growing market for solar lease deals. Just fill out one of our free forms and an expert in your area will contact you to help you learn how you can get started with solar for zero money down!
13 CONNECTICUT 3.35/5.0 Despite having one of the fastest paybacks in the country at a lightning fast 6 years, Connecticut misses out on an elite ranking this time around, clocking in at 13th with 3.35 suns. Why the only OK finish with such a strong start? Well, great as that payback timeframe is, Connecticut is missing too many important policies to go any higher. While that big ole’ state rebate is awesome, you have to sacrifice ongoing REC payments in order to collect it. And without a solar carve-out bolstering an only average RPS, we worry that one program drying up could significantly harm the outlook for solar here. Time to get back on it, Connecticut legislators! You could be doing so much more with those much higher than average energy costs. While legislators may need to get back on the ball with some of those more standard solar policies, we do commend Connecticut for being one of the first places in the nation to launch a statewide solar lease program. Go check out how you can get solar panels on your house for no money down!
14 NORTH CAROLINA 3.33/5.0 Perhaps another surprise high-finisher, North Carolina takes top place in the South, its 3.35 suns far outpacing most of the state’s regional neighbors. When you peek at that big colored board at the top of this post, you might wonder why North Carolina can get into our Top 15 without that much green across its row. But pause in that state rebate column, and you’ll have your answer – at nearly half the total average price of a residential solar power system, North Carolina’s up-front rebate program is one of the best in the nation. That helps keep your payback fast and your profits high, and that’s good enough for us. Of course, it would be even better if some of those zero-down solar lease deals were in place! In the meantime, grab a free quote or three, and see how much money solar can save you anyway.
15 VERMONT 3.26/5.0 Vermont rounds out the top 15 with 3.3 suns. Unlike some of the other states near it in the rankings, Vermont has used a more piecemeal approach to supporting solar, with a number of small programs chipping in. But between some REC payments, some rebates, a solid-enough RPS and small but present solar carve-out, The Green Mountain State is doing more than enough to support New England-style energy prices. Though the market is still small, solar leases are available from at least a couple of local installers. Grab a free quote (or two or five, they’re free!) and we’ll get you connected to an expert in your area that can tell you more.
16 OHIO 3.15/5.0 At 16th overall, Ohio is our last state above the coveted 3-sun mark, coming in just above the line at 3.15. Like some of the other states we just went over, the Buckeye State is really resting its laurels on one big piece of policy – but what a piece of policy it is! At 15 cents per kilowatt-hour of solar energy produced, The State of Presidents has one seriously presidential sized performance payment program. Those payments by itself are enough to push the expected time to payback to just 10 years for the average residential system. Unfortunately, despite that huge REC program and it’s temptingly large payments, there are no solar lease deals currently being offered for residential systems in Ohio. Lease or no lease, however, there’s tons of money to be saved and tons of fossil fuels that don’t have to be burned. Take less than a minute to fill out this form and we’ll get you connected to an expert in your area for a free estimate.
17 PENNSYLVANIA 2.9/5.0 Pennsylvania is virtually a mirror image of its neighbor to the west. No, we don’t mean political-demographics, though there’s that too! We mean solar policy, of course. Just go take a look at our big board: same 15 cent per kilowatt SREC program … and same missing or mediocre policies in most other spots. It’s no wonder they finished right next to each other in the rankings. No property tax exemption and a couple other differences mean Pennsylvania’s score tallies just a bit lower, finishing at a respectable 2.8 suns. While the final score is a bit lower and payback is just a hair slower here at 11 years, Pennsylvania gets a leg up on its neighbor thanks to the active solar lease market!
18 HAWAII 2.88/5.0 Hawaii is almost cheating in this competition. With average energy prices around 33 cents per kilowatt-hour (by far the highest in the nation) Hawaii is practically buying energy at mini bar prices! That alone helps it get into the tail end of the Top 20 with a final score of 2.8 suns. Those stratospheric energy costs are letting them skirt good policy in too many other areas. In fact, with the exception of a decent state rebate program, energy prices are practically the only thing keeping residential solar power going in the Aloha State. That said, a 5-year payback timeframe is zippity-quick indeed, and we doubt you’ll care how you got there once you’re reaping in the profits by year 6 of your solar power system. As you might have guessed based on those energy prices and that payback timeframe, solar leasing is full-go in Hawaii. Go grab one of our free quotes for more!
19 NEVADA 2.8/5.0 At 2.75 suns, Nevada is making solid but not spectacular use of all that desert sun. The property tax exemption, RPS with solar carve-out, and net metering programs are all in place, and certainly solid enough. Now if we could just toss in a few cash incentives to bring down up-front costs and expected time to payback, we’d really have something. Solar leases are not yet available in Nevada … but free quotes are!
20 MONTANA 2.73/5.0 What’s that you say? You didn’t think Big Sky country would mean big savings with solar power? Wrong you were, bud! With a strong state rebate program and strong policies in the tax exemption and net metering areas, Montana rounds out the top 20 in our rankings at a very solid 2.7 suns. With a 14-year payback timeframe, you’ll be waiting a little longer to hit the black than some higher-ranked states, but don’t worry – you’ll still have plenty of years of profit left afterward! Sadly, solar lease deals are not available in Montana at this time. Don’t fret though, we promise you’ll smile when one of our free quotes shows you how much money solar panels will save you even after your initial costs.
21 NEW HAMPSHIRE 2.71/5.0 New Hampshire is the first state outside the top 20, clocking in at a respectable 2.65 suns. The high New England energy prices help buttress a decent state rebate program (up to $4500 in up-front cash incentives) and a good-enough RPS helps keep payback timeframe a relatively quick 11 years. Of course, with energy prices as high as they are in the region, a few more solar chips from the state could go a long way to pushing New Hampshire even higher. Like most states on the list from here on out, New Hampshire does not yet have solar lease deals. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go grab a free quote to see the great deals local installers can offer you on purchasing a system! Heck, grab lots of quotes – they’re free!
22 MINNESOTA 2.65/5.0 With a strong state rebate program, both tax exemptions in place, and a payback time of only 10 years, you’d expect Minnesota to rank higher on our list at first glance. Unfortunately all that strong policy left the net metering and interconnection programs behind. And with no other cash incentives to speak of, Minnesota could only turn all those strong points into 2.6 suns in the final score. Pretty good for the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, but not great. With the foundation in place though, Minnesota could be a big mover in the next round of rankings if legislators get off their tails and start plugging the policy holes! Solar leasing is currently not available in Minnesota. Our free quotes? Yep … you guessed it. Ready and waiting.
23 FLORIDA 2.6/5.0 At 2.55 suns Florida certainly isn’t failing in solar policy, but frankly, we were expecting more from a place that calls itself The Sunshine State. There is indeed lots of sunshine to go around, but sadly little else to help aside from the state rebate program. If legislators could do just a little more with those background RPS and net metering policies, Florida could really be a national leader in solar expansion. For now though, they clock in as solidly middle of the pack. While they may not be making use of all that sun, Florida IS making use of zero-down solar leasing! Go grab one of our free quotes to learn more and get connected to an installer in your area.
24 MISSOURI 2.55/5.0 Missouri helps round out the top half of our list with a perfectly average 2.5 total suns – dead even between perfect solar policy and none at all. Not surprisingly, Missouri’s average grade is the result of a lot of average programs. Little bits help residential solar producers here and there: some small utility rebates and performance incentives, a middle of the road RPS, and decent net metering program, for instance, help make this quintessential middle-America state very middle of the road in supporting solar power. With solar leases becoming more and more popular, you might hope to find some available from a state that helps split the middle of our rankings, but unfortunately solar lease deals are not yet available in Missouri. Don’t let that stop you from grabbing a free quote (or two, or ten, they’re free!) and seeing how much money you can save with those rebates and performance payments.
25 UTAH 2.53/5.0 Coming in at number 25 with just a hair above 2.5 suns, Utah is right around average in both score and ranking. Not surprisingly, “average” is in fact a good way to describe the overall solar scene in The Beehive State. There are some good policies in place with strong net metering and interconnection laws, and a solid but not spectacular RPS target of 20% renewable energy by 2025. There are also some important policies missing, like a statewide property tax exemption on the value added to properties by solar power systems, and a statewide performance payment program. There’s a pretty solid foundation in place. A few improvements in the way of cash and / or tax saving incentives, and Utah could rank quite a bit higher next time around.
26 MAINE 2.35/5.0 At just 2.4 suns, Maine is lagging behind its New England colleagues. Though energy prices are a bit lower here than elsewhere in the region, they are still quite a bit above the national average. The only thing holding Maine back, in fact, is Maine. Despite a top-notch RPS goal of 40% renewable energy, the actual cash incentives in place in Maine are paltry, at best. We’d like to see legislators take a cue from nearby Massachusetts and bolster all of those pieces of policy a bit. In particular, we’d like to see the cap on the state rebate program raised to offer a bigger up-front discount. Solar leasing is not available in Maine, but lots of great deals on purchasing solar panels are! Fill out one quick form and we’ll get you free quotes from multiple experts on the ground in your neighborhood!
27 INDIANA 2.35/5.0 The Hoosier State helps kick in the second half of our rankings, nearly tied with Maine at just under 2.4 suns. Net metering and interconnection regulations are solid, helping ensure you’ll get hooked onto the grid for extra savings, and tax exemptions will make sure the state gives you at least a little kickback for that new residential solar power system. That said, the rest of the programs in place are downright poor, with none earning above a “D” in our marks. What’s in place is a start, but Indiana has a lot of areas that can be improved upon before they’re more than average on solar power. A strong RPS would be an excellent start; the current 10% mandate by 2025 just won’t cut it to really get solar incentives humming in the Hoosier State. Solar leasing is not available in Indiana. Free quotes are, as always.
28 WISCONSIN 2.3/5.0 Wisconsin is our second Great Lakes state on the list, coming in at number 28 with 2.35 suns. We love the 100% tax exemptions that are in place. Truly we do. But nothing else in Wisconsin stands out in any way. A number of slightly sub-par solar policies makes for a slightly sub-par ranking. That said, there is enough support for solar already in place that just a couple of changes could go a long, long way. If we were making decisions in the state, we’d start by expanding both the performance incentive and the state rebate programs. Solar leases are not yet on the market in Wisconsin.
29 TEXAS 2.3/5.0 Tied with Wisconsin at 2.35 suns, Texas makes a solid but not spectacular showing at number 29. Most of Lone Star State’s suns are resting on the backs of a state rebate – the one truly good piece of solar policy in the state. Except for the 100% property tax exemption in place, most of the rest of the regulations and incentives needed for truly stand-out solar support are either missing, or terribly sub-par. You’ve heard us say it over and over – it all starts with a strong RPS. While Texas’ goal of 10,000 MW by 2025 may sound like a lot of solar power, it is only a tiny fraction of The Lone Star State’s energy consumption, and will be smaller still by 2025. An RPS in line with other high-population states would help kick the state’s solar market into high gear. With so many people and so much sun, we can’t think of a state that needs it more. Despite the large rebate, and correspondingly quick payback timeframe of just ten years, zero money down solar lease deals have not yet come to Texas. In the meantime, one of our free quotes will get you connected to an expert who can lay out all the ways solar can save you money.
30 LOUISIANA 2.25/5.0 Louisiana helps round out our top 30 with a score of 2.30 suns. As you can see, the states are coming pretty tightly bunched together at this point in our rankings as the pickings get slimmer in our search for strong solar policy. Louisiana, for its part, is a pretty decent place to invest in solar because of a massive tax credit; 50% of the costs of purchase and installation, up to a cap of $12,500, which just happens to be exactly 50% of the average cost of a residential solar power system. Nothing else really pops out in The Bayou, but that tax credit is enough to drag your payback alllll the way down to 8 short years. Solar leases are not available in Louisiana, but with that tax credit in place, the time couldn’t be better for a local expert to help you get a solar power system up and running for half off.
31 IOWA 2.21/5.0 The Hawkeye State starts out our bottom 40% at number 31, crossing the line with 2.25 suns. While Iowa actually has at least something to show in nearly every area we grade on, most of it grades out pretty poorly. Take a quick gander at our big board. See all that orange for “D” marks? Yep, that’s what we’re talking about. Performance payments? Sorta … only for a few of the state’s residents. How about up-front rebates? Same deal. In fact, nearly all of Iowa’s solar policy is a little bit stop-and-go. But there is a lot to build on! What there’s not yet, is solar lease deals that can get your green energy system up and running for zero money down. But don’t fret! Solar leases are rapidly expanding across the country. We’re sure they’ll be in your neighborhood soon. In the meantime, fill out a quick form, grab one or two of our free quotes, and see how much you can purchase a residential solar power system for.
32 SOUTH CAROLINA 2.15/5.0 Back into the South we go … South Carolina that is, finishing with a final score of 2.2 suns. Like we’ve seen with some other states in this tier, South Carolina is resting primarily on a strong state rebate program and slightly above-average energy prices to keep their payback timeframe low. Otherwise The Palmetto State would sink quite a bit lower on our list, with virtually no strong support policies in place. Luckily, support policies are easier to implement than cash programs. With statewide tax exemptions and mandatory net metering, South Carolina could shoot up the list in no time at all. Solar leasing is not yet available in South Carolina.
33 VIRGINIA 2.11/5.0 We stay in the old South at number 33 with Virginia and it’s 2.1 suns. Old Dominion is the opposite of states like South Carolina. There are at least a few strong background policies lining the foundation –the strong net metering and interconnection regulations come to mind– but virtually nothing in the way of cash incentives. That keeps your time to payback at an unacceptably low 16 years. Also unacceptable is the lack of solar lease deals in Virginia, especially with its neighbors so close to the north having their lease deals up, running, and installing lots of solar power systems! Even without cash incentives, solar power is still a strong investment. Take 30 seconds to fill out this form and we’ll connect you to a local expert that can evaluate your home and tell you just how much you’ll save with solar.
34 WASHINGTON 2/5.0 The Evergreen State clocks in at number 34, with a final score of 1.95 suns – our first state under the 2 suns marks. While Washington does have an excellent performance incentive program, there is very little else to help support solar power. The sales tax exemption is fine and dandy, but at the very least we’re going to need see an equivalent property tax exemption, and one or more cash incentives to boost payback times, before Washington raises any higher in our book. Keep in mind, however, that buying locally made solar panels can increase your performance incentive payments, knocking a few hairs off of your estimated time to payback. Solar leases are not yet available in Washington.
35 RHODE ISLAND 1.91/5.0 With all of its Northeastern and New England brethren lining the top half of our rankings, what is Rhode Island doing all the way down here at 35? And with only 1.9 suns, there’s a long way to go before the state is in the same class as its neighbors when it comes to solar policy. Just a few years ago Rhode Island would have ranked a good bit higher, but with funding for cash incentives dried up, there’s little left to promote solar power in the state other than above-average energy prices. Even with a sun rating under 2 stars, however, solar power will still save you money. How much? Check out our state page for an estimate, and then get connected with a local expert for a detailed analysis of your unique home.
36 ALASKA 1.91/5.0 Virtually tied with Rhode Island, Alaska kicks off the second half of the 30s with just under 1.9 suns. Similar to some other states in this part of the rankings, Alaska is resting what suns it does get on one big thing. In this case, it’s much higher than average energy prices – more than 18 cents per kilowatt hour across the state. Though legislators have gotten a bit wiser –giving localities the option for a property tax exemption, and implementing a net metering law– there’s very little else to speak of in terms of Alaskan solar policy. As you might have guessed from the otherwise bleak landscape, there are not yet solar leases being offered in Alaska.
37 MICHIGAN 1.9/5.0 Another regional straggler, Michigan is the last of the Great Lakes states on the list, crossing the line with a substandard 1.9 suns. While there are strong net metering and interconnection regulations in place, there’s very little of anything else. No state rebates, no performance payments (except for Consumers Energy customers), no tax credits, no tax exemptions … just a lot of missing policy across the board. Time to get with it Michigan, and take a couple cues about good solar policy from your neighbors. Then you’d see some solar lease deals come to your state as well!
38 WEST VIRGINIA 1.55/5.0 Now the real drop-off starts. While the last large bunch of states was all closely grouped together, there’s a pretty precipitous fall betwen Michigan and our final 12 states, starting with West Virginia at 38. The Mountaineer State scores only a paltry 1.5 suns in our rankings. Now, it’s not the worst state we’ve seen (those still to come) but beyond the net metering and interconnection laws, and a small state tax credit, there is literally no solar policy on the books in West Virginia, and obviously no solar leases available either. There are still savings to be had though, and a local installer can help you determine just how much with one of our free quotes.
39 KANSAS 1.5/5.0 With 1.45 suns, Kansas round out the 30s, and paves the way for our bottom 10 states. Interestingly, however, Kansas may soon be on the upswing. A solid RPS goal of 20% renewable energy by 2020 will, we hope, kick state legislators and / or utilities into gear, and get those solar incentives humming! With a full property tax exemption and good-enough net metering law also on the books, there is a solid foundation to build off of in The Sunflower State. First and foremost, we’d like to see that RPS spur some cash incentives and / or a state tax credit to help bring down both upfront costs and overall time to pay back. In the meantime, solar lease deals are still not offered here.
40 KENTUCKY 1.5/5.0 Most of our lowest ranked states come from either the South or the Great Plains, so it’s no surprise that we start off the 40′s with Kentucky at just 1.45 suns. Unlike Kansas however, Kentucky has not implemented an RPS to give us real hope for the future. In fact, almost all of the suns Kentucky does get are based off of the programs offered to Tennessee Valley Authority customers in the region – not from anything state legislators have done. Beyond an RPS, The Bluegrass State should expand the state tax credit that’s already in place, (currently capped at just $500) and while they’re at it, add both property and sales tax exemptions. There would still be a lot of work to do of course, but with the TVA program helping many of the state’s residents, those simple tax policies could do wonders to support residential solar power. Solar leasing is not available yet in Kentucky.
41 TENNESSEE 1.45/5.0 Tennessee kicks off the bottom 10 with just 1.4 suns. Things actually aren’t so bad in the Volunteer State for TVA customers. If you’re lucky enough to be one of those, you’re eligible for both an upfront rebate and ongoing performance payments for every kilowatt-hour of solar power you produce. Unfortunately, if you’re not a TVA customer, it’s slim pickings indeed. No cash incentives, no tax credits, no net metering or interconnection regulation, not even an RPS to try and get any of those programs kickstarted with mandatory renewable energy production goals. Actually, aside from the TVA program, the only thing going on in Tennessee so far as solar power goes is a 100% sales tax exemption. That’s something, but far from enough. With our without the TVA program (but especially with it!) solar is still a good decision for your wallet and your environment. Just how good depends on factors unique to your home. To find out more, fill out this quick form and we’ll hook you up with one of the local experts we partner with in your area.
42 SOUTH DAKOTA 1.35/5.0 The solar landscape is pretty barren in South Dakota. There is an RPS in place — 10% renewable energy by 2015– but compliance with its targets is entirely voluntary. As you probably could have guessed, a voluntary RPS hasn’t been enough to spearhead much in the way of solar incentives, and South Dakota hits the finish line with just 1.3 suns. Oddly, although the state has no cash incentives or tax credits, lawmakers saw fit to pass one of the strongest property tax exemptions in the nation. Not only is your solar power system assessed at the same value as a conventional system, but 70% of your home’s total property value, up to $50,000, is exempt from all property taxes for four years. That’s actually a pretty decent start to saving solar converts money! Now state legislators just need to follow it up with a mandatory RPS, and hopefully get some rebates and performance performance payments kick-started.
43 NEBRASKA 1.15/5.0 Nebraska comes in at number 43 with 1.15 suns, our last state topping the 1-sun line. There’s really not much to speak of in The Cornhusker State. The only two pieces of solar policy are a pretty decent net metering law that ensures all surplus energy production will be credited to your next month’s bill at the full retail rate. The utility will never cut you a check for an ongoing surplus, but you can zero out your bill. There’s also a tax credit in place, but the possible savings to a residential homeowner are so small that it’s not really worth mentioning – just a few bucks a year.
44 WYOMING 0.95/5.0 Now we really are getting to the bottom of the solar barrel. At number 44, Wyoming rates just 0.9 suns in our scoring system. It’s not hard to understand why they rack up so few points. Just take a look at the big board. There is not a single piece of solar policy in place in Wyoming except for a lonesome net metering law. While that law is decent enough –it forces utilities to apply your surplus as a credit to the next bill and to actually purchase all accumulated surplus every 12 months– it certainly can’t carry the solar-incentivizing load all by itself. With such a barren solar landscape, Wyoming should start at the beginning — with a strong RPS backed by penalties for noncompliant utilities– and build from there.
45 GEORGIA 0.95/5.0 Also at 0.9 suns, Georgia may have even less going for it than Wyoming, so far as solar power goes. Except for the minority of Georgians lucky enough to be TVA customers, there is literally nothing incentivizing solar in the state. While there is technically a law establishing net metering in the state, that law is woefully inadequate, receiving an F from both us and our colleagues over at Freeing the Grid. You’ve heard us say it over and over again, but we can’t stress it enough – the best place to start building is with a high-target RPS that forces the utilities to start easing customers transition to producing their own solar power.
46 ALABAMA 0.95/5.0 Alabama starts our bottom 5, the third state in a row with approximately 0.9 suns. We can sum up solar power in The Heart of Dixie in two sentences. If you’re a TVA customer, you can cash in on both a rebate and ongoing performance payments. If you’re not a TVA customer, there’s nothing at all – not even mandatory net metering this time.
47 IDAHO 0.90/5.0 Idaho finishes at number 47 with just 0.85 suns. The only piece of solar policy in place in the state is a tax credit. When you install a new solar power system in your home, you are entitled to a state income tax deduction for 40% of the cost of the project in the first year, and 20% each year for the next three years. The deduction comes off of your income that you pay taxes on, not your actual tax burden. With a maximum deduction from income of $5,000 per year and a state tax rate of 7.8%, you can expect to get back about $1,560 over the four years the tax credit can be stretched over. That’s $1,560 more than you’re getting from a lot of other states at the bottom of the ranking. With some up-front rebates or ongoing SREC payments, that fifteen hundred bucks would even be a pretty solid piece of the overall solar picture. But without other programs helping to carry the load, that tax credit just isn’t enough.
48 NORTH DAKOTA 0.81/5.0 North Dakota, at 0.7 suns, actually does have a few pieces of policy passed into law. Unfortunately none of those policies are very good, except the property tax exemption –100% of the value of your solar power system for 5 years– which is adequate, but by no means a standout. The other two regulations, a weak net metering law that does little except ensure that surpluses are credited to future bills at the wholesale rate, and a voluntary RPS of 10% by 2015, simply don’t cut out. Without any other incentives in place, North Dakota has a long way to go before solar policy is even adequate in the state.
49 MISSISSIPPI 0.75/5.0 Mississippi closes out the 40s with just 0.65 suns. We’ve seen this pattern before in the South; if you’re a TVA customer, you can cash in on a $1,000 upfront rebate and ongoing performance payments to the tune of 12 cents for every kilowatt hour of solar power you produce. If you’re not a TVA customer? You got it. Not a single piece of solar policy at all. And of course, like the rest of the states with little to no solar support, there’s no place to start like a strong RPS with an even strong solar carve-out!
50 ARKANSAS 0.70/5.0 With just 0.6 suns, Arkansas narrowly misses being dead last in the 2013 rankings. Take one look at our big board, and it’s not hard to see why the state comes in so low. With only one piece of solar policy in place, Arkansas barely gets started in this race. But a just good enough net metering regulation isn;t enough to encourage solar power all by itself. Like we’ve recommended in all of the states where solar power policy is similarly lacking, Arkansas should start with a strong Renewables Portfolio Standard to set mandatory levels of renewable energy production for the state’s utilities. In many states, a robust RPS with stiff penalties for falling short of renewable energy production targets has been enough to spur the utilities to offer rebate and performance payment programs, saving solar converts thousands of dollars without expense to the state.
51 OKLAHOMA 0.75/5.0 While we have lots of great things to say about Oklahoma, none of them are about the Sooner State’s solar policy. At first glance it looks like the one piece of policy in place –an RPS goal of 15% renewable energy by 2015– is a sign of a potentially bright future. But take a closer look and you’ll see that the RPS goal is literally just that – a goal. With no penalties in place for noncompliance, utilities are free to simply ignore the RPS’s targets. Turn those goals into penalty-backed mandates, and then you’d see solar power start get going in the state.


Where this data comes from

The following criteria in our pie chart below are very important, and reflect our recommendations for legislatures to focus on getting right:

Let’s cover each part of the ranking:

Solar Incentives (60% of total summary grade) – Available utility, state, and municipal incentives for customers to adopt solar energy. Rated by Solar Power Rocks in 2013. More info on all the states on the right hand sidebar of this page.

Grades reflect: Years to system payback accounting for all available incentives (20%), Tying residential solar incentives to system performance by opening the state market to SREC trading or large scale adoption of feed-in tariffs (10%), strength of utility and state rebates (10%), personal tax credits (10%), property tax exemption status (7%), and sales tax exemption status (3%).

Utility Policies (20% of summary grade) – Strong utility policies include a specific solar carve out in the state’s renewable energy portfolio. However, many states do not even have a renewable portfolio standard to speak of. Some states also continue to subsidize large non-renewable, polluting electricity generators which artificially creates lower utility prices. This lengthens payback on a solar investment. Compiled by Solar Power Rocks, 2013.

Grades reflect: Strength of a solar specific set aside in the state’s renewable portfolio standard (10%), strength of the overall state RPS (5%), existing electric rates (5%).

Interconnection (10% of summary grade) – The technical rules for solar customers to “plug in” to the electric grid. The more complex, out of date, or nonsensical the state rules are for plugging into the grid, the lower the grade.

Grades reflect: Eligible technologies, individual system capacity, removing interconnection process complexity for smaller systems, interconnection timelines and charges, engineering charges, prohibiting the requirement of unnecessary external disconnects, certification, spot interconnection vs. wide area interconnection, technical screens, friendliness of legalese, insurance requirements, dispute resolution, and rule coverage.

Net Metering (10% of summary grade) – The billing arrangement where customers get can sell excess electricity back to their utility for equal the amount they are charged to consume it. The more customer friendly net metering policies, the higher the grade.

Grades reflect: Individual solar system capacity, caps on program capacity limits, restrictions on “rollover” of kWh from one month to the next (yep just like cell phone minutes), metering issues (like charges for new meters), Renewable Energy Credit (REC) ownership, eligible customers and technology (the more renewables the better), being able to aggregate meters across the property for net metering, and safe harbor provisions to protect customers from solar tariff changes.

To learn more about any of the criteria, we invite you to click on your state of residence in the right sidebar. We cover your state scores in a nice summary image, and cover each segment of policy in complete conversational detail.

The below image reflects our letter grades based on state legislature performance relating to our scoring criteria.

We score each state in every category mentioned in our pie chart like this:

If you click on the main image at the top of the page (yes, the one that looks like a disco floor), you’ll see how we scored each state with a letter grade.

Now, to standardize those scores, we had to convert each grade to a 0-5 scale, which we then cross-multiplied against our % importance ratings in the pie chart above to arrive at the scores you see below.

The colored bars represent the state’s overall grade, relative to the performance of the other states. Yes, we graded on a curve and produced a normal distribution to arrive at these final grades.

Here’s another way to visualize the data:

Thank you for your continued support, comments, and feedback. And please, if you are not in the position to even consider solar energy on your home, share this with your friends and family by clicking the facebook like button to your upper left. Spreading the word about where states are and where they need to be helps us continue to research and provide easily digestible information to everyone on a regular basis.

Original Article on Solar Power Rocks

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