News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

California's Sun Rising: State Retaking Solar Lead Nationwide

Sunrise in California | Photo: Sathish J/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California has been in the forefront of the small-scale solar industry for decades, ever since rooftop solar was mainly associated with off-the-grid alternative lifestyle types. In recent years, as the benefits of solar and the threat of climate change each become more obvious, other states such as New Jersey and Arizona have challenged California's dominance. That's a good thing, as much as it may tweak Californian pride. But according to one group of industry analysts, California is likely to regain its lead in the next year, and the credit goes to our strong incentives.

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The San Mateo-based solar market research group NPD Solarbuzz this week announced that California's share of the country's on-grid solar PV market will surpass 50 percent again in 2013, after dipping below 40 percent for the first time ever in 2010.

The state's incentives are to credit for the increase, both in carrot-form as the ratepayer funded California Solar Initiative, which offers rebates for solar power installations on homes and businesses, and in stick form as seen in the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to generate 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Meanwhile, overworked and flagging incentives elsewhere make it harder for other states to keep up the pace. Overall solar market growth is expected to slow nationwide from 51 percent in 2012 to around 30 percent in 2013.

A point of pride for Californians, perhaps, but it would be better for everyone concerned if other states gave us some stiff competition.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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