In an industry that has continued to grow at an impressive rate nationwide (4.4x over the past 5 years), details on solar hot spots in the U.S. can be elusive. Though there are a few states that are known for having plentiful sunlight (California, Florida, Arizona), there are many states leading the U.S. solar revolution that are flying under the radar. In this article, we’ll break down the top five solar states to date by cumulative solar capacity as well as the states with the fastest growing solar markets in 2017.
What are the top states for solar power in 2017?
In order to compile both our top leaders and fastest growing states list, we looked at a number of resources for the U.S. solar market including our own installer and quote database as well as the publicly available data offered by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The Golden State continues its reign as the behemoth of the U.S. solar market. California now boasts 19,000 megawatts (MW) of installed solar to date, which is roughly the equivalent of the next nine states combined. In addition to its consistent and strong sunlight totals, California has the perfect mix of progressive culture, expensive energy prices and strong solar incentives due to its long list of solar-friendly utilities, ultimately making it the ideal location for titanic solar growth.
Though North Carolina has been and continues to be a top-five state for solar in the U.S., it’s notable that it is also one of the fastest growing in the U.S. The Tar Heel State has moved up from the #4 spot last year to #2 in 2017, and is now a top ten state for solar jobs. North Carolina’s solar success can be credited to its popular financing options, including its revolving loan program that offers some of the lowest interest rates in the country for homeowners looking to purchase their solar panel system with a loan.
Though Arizona has been a top 10 state for solar for some time, the Grand Canyon State is a new member of the top five club after seeing some of the most dramatic growth in the country over the first half of 2017. Thanks to its state solar tax credit (which cuts the cost of going solar by a quarter), Arizona homeowners get the benefit of both their local and the federal tax subsidy and as a result, see some of the best prices for PV installations in the country.
Thanks to a host of strong incentives, Nevada has slowly grown its solar market every year to now register as both a top U.S. state for installed solar and solar jobs. Though available sunlight is certainly above average in Nevada, the big appeal for homeowners is the state’s prices which compete for the lowest in the nation thanks to it’s largest utility’s enticing rebate. The NV Energy solar incentive program takes a few thousand dollars off the cost of going solar on top of the federal solar tax credit and the result is some of the best solar economics in the nation. Even more, the recent restoration of net-metering in Nevada bodes well for the future success of the state’s solar market.
Of the veteran solar states in the U.S., New Jersey saw the most dramatic solar growth last year, rising from 10th largest state by installed PV capacity to 5th while also entering the top 10 for solar job creation for the first time. A number of strong solar incentives in New Jersey make solar even more affordable for local homeowners, including strong net metering policies and good values for solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) – a process that allows homeowners to earn cash every year for the energy their solar systems are producing.
What are the fastest growing states for solar energy in 2017?
Though the leaders in installed capacity are certainly of interest, much of the industry is focused on where the heart of future growth in solar will come from. For this information, look no further than our list of the hottest solar markets in the U.S. in 2017:
Though Utah has been a strong state for solar for a few years now, the past 6 months have revealed a surge in consumer interest in the Beehive State. Salt Lake City is now home to some of the lowest prices in the country and homeowners are benefitting from some of the best state incentives available. Utah homeowners get the benefit of an added subsidy on their cost of installing solar of up to $2,000 in addition to the solar ITC. However, this incentive expires at the end of 2017 and so now is the time for Utah to take advantage of top-rated solar economics.
Following last year’s strong rejection of an amendment that would have hindered Florida’s solar industry, growth in the Sunshine State has been apparent – we’ve noticed a sizable increase in both consumer and installer interest in 2017 at EnergySage. Florida is now a top 10 state for solar and its future looks bright, with major price declines projected for the next few years. Favorable net metering policies and some of the most bountiful yearly sunlight totals are primary reasons for Florida’s rising success as a solar market.
In terms of U.S. states with the brightest futures for growth, Texas may be the most favorable in the nation. The Lone Star State is already a top ten state for solar installations and solar jobs and is poised to continue to grow aggressively thanks to its long list of major incentives offered by various utilities. To offer context, Texas now holds 3 of the top 20 cities for solar power in the U.S. in terms of consumer interest and favorable pricing (Austin, San Antonio, and Houston). The energy capital of the world is going solar at a remarkable rate.
Though it’s often a surprise to many Americans, Georgia is a top 10 state for solar energy and has been for many years. However, the Peach State has also seen increased growth in the past two years as prices have plummeted (nearly 70% drop in cost over the past five years), qualifying it for our 2017 top growth ranking. In years to come, Georgia will have a strong opportunity to dethrone North Carolina as the top solar state in the South.
There’s no question that Indiana is far from a top state for solar power in the grand scheme of things; however, we’ve noticed a dramatic surge in consumer interest in 2017, enough to earn it the #5 spot in our hottest growing solar markets report. Though solar prices are decreasing nationwide, they are falling at a significantly expedited rate in Indiana and the market growth on both our platform and across the state is only a natural result.
How homeowners from top solar areas can save big
For those solar shoppers that are already advantaged by living in one of the leading or fastest growing U.S. markets for rooftop solar, you may be surprised to learn that there is still more you can do to get a better deal. The solar process involves a lot of research and education and the more you understand prices in the market, the better deal you can ensure for your household. Bringing us to our…
Three Tips for Solar Shoppers
1. Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.
To find the smaller contractors that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $5,000 to $10,000 on their solar panel installation.
2. The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
3. Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.
For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers upfront cost and long-term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.