Solar energy is taking off in the US. In 2019, the solar industry will likely surpass 2 million residential rooftops with solar panels installed nationwide. Some states and cities are further along in the adoption of solar energy than others, while others are new markets poised to become leaders in future years. To breakdown the best cities and states for solar in 2019, we leveraged our own data as well as the recently released Shining Cities 2019 report from Environment America.
What are the best states for solar?
To answer this question, we focused on the payback period for solar, a metric that tracks how many years it takes for a new solar energy system to recover the initial cost of the investment. A short payback period is influenced by lower solar costs, high electricity prices, or robust solar programs and incentives. Nationwide, the average solar shopper on EnergySage sees a payback period of just under 8 years. The following five states see the lowest payback periods in the country, with all coming in below the national average on EnergySage:
5. Rhode Island – 7.6 year payback period
Despite being the smallest of all 50 states in square mileage, the Ocean State boasts the 34th most solar of any state by installed megawatts (MW). Between the state’s rebate for small-scale solar systems, National Grid’s Renewable Energy Growth program, and net metering, Rhode Island currently has some of the best solar economics in the country, with new system investments breaking even in just under 8 years.
4. South Carolina – 7.5 year payback period
The Southeast experienced large growth in solar over the last year, largely driven by the arrival of major technology companies who signed agreements to purchase electricity from large scale solar farms throughout the state. For residential consumers in South Carolina, solar energy systems break even in 7.5 years, as homeowners can take advantage of rebates from individual utilities and a state tax credit. And with net metering set to be extended in the state, rooftop solar is poised to grow even further throughout the Palmetto State.
3. California – 5.9 year payback period
The Golden State has long been the nation’s leader in solar. In fact, California has five times as much solar capacity as the next closest state. With new statewide policies that encourage even greater solar adoption, such as placing solar on all new houses and a 100% clean energy law, it looks like California is set to continue to lead in solar.
2. Massachusetts – 5.5 year payback period
Despite the end of the highly successful SREC II program in 2018, the Bay State continues to provide some of the best solar incentives in the country. The combination of the state’s residential solar tax credit and the performance-based incentives available under the new SMART program has led solar shoppers in Massachusetts to see payback periods of under six years.
1. New Jersey – 5.5 year payback period
The Garden State shares the mantle of best solar economics on EnergySage with Massachusetts. The combination of higher-than-average electricity rates and advantageous solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) prices enable solar shoppers in New Jersey to have an average payback period of five and a half years in quotes on the EnergySage Marketplace.
What are the best cities for solar?
Every spring, Environment America releases the Shining Cities report, which tracks trends in urban solar installations. Given the high percentage of the country’s population and electricity consumption that comes from cities, this report is an important perspective on the state of the industry. As seen below, the top cities on a solar-per-capita basis are primarily in the Southwest or West, but with a few notable surprises outside of those regions. Per capita rankCityStateSolar PV per capita (Watts/person)Total solar PV installed (MW) 1HonoluluHI646.4226.5 2San DiegoCA247.5351.4 3San JoseCA194.9201.7 4BurlingtonVT187.37.9 5Las VegasNV162.2104.1 6PhoenixAZ145.3236.2 7IndianapolisIN143.5123.8 8RiversideCA138.345.3 9DenverCO129.691.4 10AlbuquerqueNM128.972.0
Where is solar growing the fastest?
In our recently published Solar Marketplace Intel Report™, we review the growth in solar interest by state. As the most visited website in the solar industry, we use changes to web traffic year-over-year to EnergySage as a proxy for growth in solar interest. Between 2017 and 2018, interest in solar grew in every state in the US and more than doubled in eleven states. Here are the states with the fastest growth in solar interest over the last year:
5. New York
Since the Empire State released the Clean Energy Standard in 2016, which calls for meeting 50% of electricity needs in the state with renewable energy by 2030, the state has been on a track of rapid renewable growth. In fact, over the last few years, a couple of key policy initiatives–Reforming the Energy Vision (NY REV) and the Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER)–have helped to level the playing field for and raise the awareness of solar throughout New York.
We were pleasantly surprised to see the Buckeye State crack the list of fastest-growing solar states for 2019. The state has a checkered history of renewable energy legislation, with the state legislature freezing and unfreezing the state’s renewable portfolio standard over the last several years. However, there has recently been a renewed focus on clean energy and job creation from the renewable industry in the state, setting Ohio up for a successful solar year in 2019.
The Prairie State introduced the Adjustable Block Program to encourage the development of solar projects in 2017 and was immediately flooded with applications to build solar from large scale developers in the state. The large jump in solar interest in Illinois in 2018 indicates that solar awareness among residential homeowners is catching up to that of the large scale developers. And with both the state and the city of Chicago announcing 100 percent renewable goals, solar is ready to grow steadily for the foreseeable future.
The Silver State sees the third most sunny days of any state in the country and has the fourth most megawatts of solar installed in-state. It is no surprise to see interest in residential solar growing rapidly among residents of Nevada.
Interestingly, the state with the largest year-over-year growth in solar interest is Virginia. Website traffic to EnergySage from Old Dominion more than doubled between 2017 and 2018, as climate and energy policy became a hot-button topic in the governor’s race in the state. And it appears the state is only just getting started: just this week, Facebook and Dominion–the major utility in Virginia–agreed to a 350-megawatt purchase of solar power.
Live in one of the best states or cities for solar?
Is your state or city on this list? If so, check out our free-to-use Solar Calculator to estimate how much you could be saving with solar. Don’t see your home state or city listed here? Let us know why it should be!