Madison – Today, Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center released a new report: Lighting the Way: The Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013, showing strong solar growth across the nation including a 17% increase in Wisconsin in 2013. The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy to help capture the virtually unlimited and pollution-free energy from the sun.
Wisconsin’s progress on solar has helped fuel a tripling of solar energy nationwide between 2011 and 2013. In 2013, solar capacity in Wisconsin grew from 14 MW to 17 MW.
“Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option in Wisconsin and across the country,” said Ellen Ziesenhene, Campaign Coordinator with Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center. “While some progress has been made, this pollution-free energy option could play a much bigger role in that helping us meet the carbon pollution reduction under the Clean Power Plan.
Solar in the United States increased more than 120-fold in the last 10 years. In the first quarter of 2014, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all the new electric generation capacity installed in the United States. Ten states with the most solar installed per/capita are driving 89 percent of the solar installed in the U.S, while, representing only 26 percent of the population and 20 percent of the electricity consumption.
And as the solar industry grows, the cost for installed solar decreases; making it more accessible. The price of installed solar systems fell 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013. Jobs in the solar industry are also growing rapidly. In 2013, there were more than 140,000 solar jobs in the U.S., including 1,800 in Wisconsin.
Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces no pollution; including climate-altering carbon emissions. According the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.
Several strong policies adopted by the top 10 solar states helped encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar:”
- 9 states have strong net metering policies. In nearly all of the leading states, consumers are compensated at the full retail rate for the excess electricity they supply to the grid.
- 9 states have strong statewide interconnection policies. Good interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
- All 10 states have renewable electricity standards that set minimum requirements for the share of a utility’s electricity that must come from renewable sources, and 8 of them have solar carve-outs that set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean, distributed electricity.
- 9 states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements, and 8 allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
While Wisconsin has made progress, it could do much more by improving its net-metering program and by allowing sale or leasing of solar by parties other than the electric utilities.
“Wisconsin officials deserve tremendous credit for recognizing the environmental and economic benefits of solar and taking action to make it a reality,” said Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director with Environment America. “As more people see the benefits of solar energy, we’re confident clean, limitless energy from the sun will be a growing part of Wisconsin’s’ plan to reduce pollution from power plants.”
Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center Research & Policy Center is a state-wide non-profit environmental group dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.