Massachusetts, way up in the NE corner of the US, and a fraction of the size of most States, ranked 7th for total solar capacity in 2012, according to solar advocacy group Environment Massachusetts. As you'd probably expect, California was way out in front with 1,033 megawatts installed, which ranks it just behind the 6 largest solar countries in the world! Arizona is 2nd with 710MW, and New Jersey a surprising 3rd place with over 400MW installed.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) tracks, among other things, solar installations across the USA. They rank Massachusetts 6th. They report that in 2012 solar installations in the USA grew 76% over 2011, with many States having a record year. Ironically, Florida - the Sunshine State - has the 3rd largest potential solar market (based on rooftops) behind the colossal California and Texas, and yet lags way behind on installations - not even making the top 10.
So why are some States doing better than others? The answer lies largely with incentives and utility costs. Solar pricing vs. utility electrical costs make solar a 'no-brainer' in California, with a typical household 'net-zero' installation paying for itself in 4 to 7 years. And with a system life expectancy in the order of several decades, there's little reason not to go solar.
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, the State has implemented an aggressive policy for renewable energies, along with an impressive incentives package all tied to a State goal for installed solar capacity. They set a target of 250 MW of installed solar by 2017. In early 2013 this goal was reached, and by the middle of 2013 they were pushing towards the 300MW milestone.
Rob Sargent of Environment Massachusetts concurs. "If you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, follow Massachusetts' lead" he said. "Set ambitious but achievable goals and back them up with policies that work."
Massachusetts new solar target, recently announced by Governor Patrick, is 1.6 Gigawatts installed by 2020 - roughly the equivalent of 40 domestic solar installations per day, every day for the rest of the decade. And it's reassuring to see elected leaders setting goals for the good of the community that also extend beyond their election cycles.
Hey Florida - time to wake up your elected officials - they don't have to re-invent the wheel - find a State where solar policy is working well, like Massachusetts, and just copy it.