Five Best and Worst U.S. States for Solar in 2021
January 5, 2022
Renewable energy has been growing in popularity and necessity over the years, making solar power an increasingly bigger priority. One recognizable trend in 2021 is that geography is less of a deciding factor in whether or not a state is a leader in solar power.
The Solar Energy Industries Association releases its quarterly rankings of solar industry strength in each state to help clarify which states are winning the solar race and which are falling behind.
Five Best U.S. States for Solar in 2021
The Golden State of California consistently ranks high on lists of U.S. states doing well in the solar energy sector. This makes sense as the state sees nearly 300 sunny or partly sunny days each year. California began to create laws incentivizing green energy in 1976 making it an early adopter of solar power.
Solar energy powers almost 25% of California’s electricity. Additionally, the state has invested over $73 billion in solar technology along with tax incentives and property tax exemptions for residents who install solar panels. There are more than 2,000 solar companies in the state and over 8 million homes powered by solar energy.
Texas is also one of the best states in the nation for solar energy in production and installation.
The Lone Star State has a solar energy investment of over $14 billion and has over 1 million homes powered by solar. So far in 2021, Texas has added 1,525 megawatts of solar capacity, an amount equivalent to 45% of the capacity installed during all of 2020.
Texas receives just over 2.8% of its total electricity from solar power, but the state is leading the nation in residential solar panel installation.
3. North Carolina
The mid-Atlantic state of North Carolina might not be the first U.S. state to come to mind when you think about solar power. Nevertheless, sunshine and generous exemptions put it in third rank.
Long stretches of sunny days allows North Carolina to get 8.05% of its electricity from solar power — that’s higher than Texas and Florida combined. North Carolina’s Solar Property Tax Exemption policy gives a substantial income tax credit that encourages residents and businesses to install solar power in record numbers.
North Carolina has over 800,000 homes powered by solar energy and a total solar investment of over $10 billion.
It’s no wonder that Florida is among the solar leaders in the United States with a nickname like the Sunshine State.
The state has a total investment of $10.5 billion in solar energy and technology, and around 4% of its electricity comes from solar. More than 900,000 homes in the state are powered by solar.
In 2021, Florida added 525 megawatts of solar capacity — 19% of the capacity installed during 2020, and 7% of the state’s total capacity. The state has nearly doubled its cumulative solar capacity in just over a year.
Arizona invests heavily in solar energy and comes in second place after California for solar investments reaching upwards of $14.3 billion. The Grand Canyon State’s dedication to solar power is paying off — close to 8.5% of its total electricity now comes from solar energy.
Arizona has about 306 solar companies in the state including 57 manufacturers, 144 Installers, and 105 labeled as other. These businesses create over 7,000 solar jobs.
[Related: What to Know Before Installing Solar Panels]
Five Worst U.S. States for Solar in 2021
1. North Dakota
A midwestern state dominated by the Great Plains, North Dakota ranks as the worst U.S. state for solar energy.
North Dakota only receives half the number of sunny days as California. The state spends $3 million on solar investments and, as of 2021, still receives 0% of its total electricity from solar energy. There are only around 130 homes that are solar-powered and only eight solar companies in the state.
2. South Dakota
South Dakota does only slightly better than its northern neighbor when it comes to its solar power. The Mount Rushmore State invests a little more money in solar at around $4 million, and has just under double the number of solar-powered homes ranging around 210.
The state has 10 solar companies as of 2021 and gets 0.02% of its energy from solar technology.
3. West Virginia
As a longstanding leader in coal mining and coal production, West Virginia is slow to embrace solar technology.
Almost 14,000 people in the Mountain State have jobs in the coal industry, compared to around 300 solar jobs. West Virginia has over 1,300 homes powered by solar, 17 solar companies, and just 0.03% of the state’s electricity coming from the sun. West Virginia’s total solar investment is approximately $49 million.
Also ranked among the worst states for solar energy is Alaska, despite its solar investment of $37 million.
Solar power in Alaska is complicated since the state is in near darkness for half of the year. There are about 1,600 homes powered by solar in the state even though there are only 11 solar companies providing about 59 jobs. Alaska receives 0.19% of its electricity from solar.
Kentucky rounds out the top five worst U.S. states for solar with only 0.15% of the state’s electricity sourced from solar energy, The Bluegrass State has a solar investment of $137 million and more than 6,000 homes powered by this renewable energy source.
Some major corporations like General Motors have installed solar farms in the Bowling Green area of Kentucky, but some residents dislike industrial solar farms taking over land formerly used for traditional farming and cattle grazing. The state has 40 solar companies and over 1,200 solar jobs.
[Related: Energy Independence Through Solar]
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