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Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii America's top 3 solar states

Staff writer |
Environment America Research & Policy Center released "Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America's Top 12 Solar States". More than 90% of 12 leading states have strong net metering policies.

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The top 12 solar states ranked by per capita solar are: Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Maryland.

"The sky's the limit on solar energy. The progress of these states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Being a leader in pollution-free solar energy means setting big goals and backing them up with good policies," said Rob Sargent, energy program director with Environment America.

The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy for the development of the solar industry.

States with more homeowners and businesses "going solar" share some strong policies: more than 90% of 12 leading states have strong net metering policies, which allow customers to offset their electric bills with onsite solar and receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.

Among them 11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity standards, requiring utilities to provide a minimum amount of their power from renewable sources; and nine of them have solar carve outs, which set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean onsite power.

Ten of the 12 have strong statewide interconnection policies. Interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.

The majority of the top solar states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

"Environment America's ranking of Hawaii as a leader in solar energy is encouraging and demonstrates our state's commitment to achieving its clean energy goals. Continuing our momentum, I recently enacted legislation to establish Hawaii's innovative Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program, which will provide a financing model to make clean energy improvements more affordable and within reach to underserved members of our community," said Hawaii's Governor Neil Abercrombie.

Solar is on the rise across the country. According to the "U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2012 Year-in-Review" report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, America had more than three times as much solar capacity as it did in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as it did in 2007. To boot, SEIA also found that the price to install a solar system fell by 26 percent in 2012.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA, underlined the report's findings that solar energy deployment is skyrocketing. "There is now more than 8,500 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity installed in the U.S. - enough to power more than 1.3 million American homes. "Solar now employs nearly 120,000 Americans at more than 5,600 companies, most of which are small businesses spread across the U.S."

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