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

Study: California Best State for Rooftop Solar

California sun is number 1 | Photo: Andrew Miesem/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A new study of residential rooftop solar in the United States ranks California as the best place in the country for people who want to solarize their houses. The study, done by the financial blog nerdwallet, says California offers the best combination of sunshine, incentives, and potential savings on high electrical bills of any of the fifty states.

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The nerdwallet study also factored room for solar growth on each state's grid into its calculations.

Following California's lead in the top five, according to nerdwallet, are Hawaii, Arizona, and the somewhat surprising Chesapeake Bay states of Maryland and Delaware, each of which has robust state incentives for rooftop solar.

Hawaii is a tough competitor for the lead, with far better sunshine closer to the equator, and unbelievably expensive electric bills. In summing up the reasons California beat out the Aloha State for the top spot, nerdwallet says:

California's electricity costs are among the most expensive in the country. The state has set the loftiest goal of deriving 33 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This high goal encourages generous rebates from utilities to help cover the cost of installation in addition to cash back incentives once the system is in use given support from the California Solar Initiative. After installation, residents also are exempt from paying state property taxes on their system. Cities and municipalities provide even more incentives[.]

Another reason California likely took the top spot instead of the Islands: nerdwallet figured that California has room for 1,563.6 megawatts of rooftop solar on its current grid, compared to Hawai'i's 85.2 megawatts.

Ordered lists have bottoms as well as tops, and this one's no exception. The bottom five states for rooftop solar, according to nerdwallet, were Nebraska, Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho, and North Dakota.

Utah and Oklahoma didn't make the bottom five: they ranked 28th and 42nd, respectively. Still nerdwallet singles those two solar laggart states out for specific criticism, pointing out that Utah's continued reliance on coal-fire plants means Utahns enjoy low power bills. Not only does that heat up the planet for the rest of us, but it also makes it less feasible for Utahns of conscience to go solar. And while Oklahoma has renewable energy goals on paper, that state's legislature has passed no laws to help people comply with those goals, earning the state nerdwallet's "worst state incentives" slot.

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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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