Which States Are Best for Solar Power?

SolarCalendarMarch 29, 2018

Have you noticed a wave of neighbors’ roofs turning shiny with solar panels? Or maybe you keep reading about the solar electricity revolution and are wondering how your state compares to the rest of the nation in solar adoption. 

Solar adoption is shaped by many things - from the tax incentives offered by states to how much their residents value renewable solar energy. Take a look at how your state stacks up, from adoption to average return on investment. After all, there might be a good reason all your neighbors are making the change!

Best States For Solar Power by Installed Solar Capacity

With more than 21,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity, California easily leads all fifty U.S. states in solar electricity production - enough to power 5.4 million homes!1 In fact, at 4,300 megawatts, the next state on the list doesn’t even come close (North Carolina, enough to power 486,339 homes). Here’s the top-10 best states for solar power from 2018:2

  1. California - 21,074 MW
  2. North Carolina - 4,308 MW
  3. Arizona - 3,400 MW
  4. Nevada - 2,595 MW
  5. New Jersey - 2,390 MW
  6. Massachusetts - 2,011 MW
  7. Texas - 1,874 MW
  8. Utah - 1,599 MW
  9. Georgia - 1,566 MW
  10. Florida - 1,430 MW

But Which Homeowners Get the Best Deal on Solar?

It’s interesting to know where the most homeowners are choosing solar panels, but do those states have the best deals or just the most sunshine? You may also be wondering, what’s the best deal on rooftop solar? And are your neighboring states getting a better deal?

Solar electricity research and advocacy group Solar Power Rocks ranked each state for solar-friendliness - top grades went to Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Oregon and New York.3 We’ll break out the stats on who sees the most financial benefits from going solar. The investment quality in each state can depend on the average solar system cost, the type of agreement that the customer signs,  the financial incentives offered up front, and any net metering or other agreements in place. 

Quickest Return On Investment (ROI) for Owned Solar Energy Systems3

  1. Massachusetts and Rhode Island both come in at just 4 years to pay back a 5 kW solar system!
  2. New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C. and Hawaii are all close behind with a 6-year payback.
  3. California, Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire and South Carolina each have a 5 kW solar system payback time of less than 10 years.

Highest Investment Return Rate for Owned Solar Energy Systems3

  1. Rhode Island easily takes the cake with a 38.5 percent IRR.
  2. Runners up, with IRRs above 20 percent, are Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Hawaii.
  3. Not too shabby for Oregon, Maryland, Connecticut, Vermont, Washington DC, New Hampshire, Delaware, California, Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina and Georgia that all top a 10 percent IRR. 

Neighbor Envy?

If you don’t live in one of the top-ranked states, you may now be suffering from Fear of Missing Out. But take heart! All 50 states, even Mississippi which ranked very last in solar-friendliness, have a positive IRR and a payback time of 20 years or less on a 5 kW system owned by the homeowner3 (most rooftop solar panels are rated to last at least 25 years). So just because we can’t all live in Rhode Island doesn’t mean we’re getting a bad deal with solar.

No matter where you live in the U.S., switching to solar frees you from unpredictable local utility rates. You can still save money on your electric bill and do something good for the environment by using clean, renewable solar energy regardless of which state you call home. 

Still, if you’d like to try and improve the incentives and benefits of going solar in your state, you can and should get involved as a solar advocate. Contact your representatives and let them know clean, renewable solar energy in your state should be a priority. You can also register with other solar advocates to stay up to speed on ways to get your voice out there. After all, clean, renewable solar energy is an important investment for us all!


1. https://www.seia.org/research-resources/top-10-solar-states-2017
2. https://www.seia.org/solar-industry-data
3. https://solarpowerrocks.com/2017-state-solar-power-rankings/

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