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Megan Severson,
Wisconsin Environment Research and Policy Center
Rob Sargent,
Environment America

New Report: Wisconsin Ranks 26th in the Nation for Solar Power

For Immediate Release

Milwaukee – Today, Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center released Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States, a new report highlighting a solar energy boom across the country. The report outlines the twelve states that have made a considerable contribution to the nation’s rise in solar power. Wisconsin however, missed the cut and ranks 26th in the nation for per capita solar installations. Last year, solar capacity in Wisconsin grew by 7% bringing it to a total of 14 megawatts. But Wisconsin still trails behind leading solar states such as New Jersey that has more than 50 times as many solar installations per capita than Wisconsin.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” said Megan Severson, State Advocate with Wisconsin Environment. “The progress of other states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, set big goals and get good policies on the books.”

Solar is on the rise across the country. America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity as it did in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as it did in 2007. And now the price of solar panels fell by 26 percent in 2012. Wisconsin Environment attributed the solar boom to the leadership of state officials, especially those in states profiled in the report.

“More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs,” said Severson. “With the increasing threat of global warming, Wisconsin must become a leading solar state.”

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 for the development of the solar industry.

“Wisconsin has an important opportunity to take recommendations from this report,” said Amy Heart, Solar Program Manager for City of Milwaukee. “Milwaukee has made great strides in providing solar financing solutions and reducing the cost of solar installations, but we can do more to provide residents and business owners lower and more sustainable energy bills.” Milwaukee has seen a five-fold increase in the number of solar installations over the past four years. “To continue this success, Wisconsin should take a close look at the progress in other states including basic policies like leasing and third party owned solar legislation,” said Heart.

States profiled in the report include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont.

While these 12 states account for only 28 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 85 percent of the nation’s installed solar energy.

The report highlights the strong policies adopted by the top solar states that encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar.” Most notably:

  • 11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, which allow customers to offset their electric bills with onsite solar and receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.
  • 11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity standards, requiring utilities to provide a minimum amount of their power from renewable sources; and nine of them have solar carve outs, which set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean onsite power.
  • 10 of the 12 have strong statewide interconnection policies. Interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
  • The majority of the top solar states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

“Right now only a small fraction of our energy comes from solar,” concluded Severson. “By setting a bold goal of getting 10 percent of our energy from the sun by 2030 and adopting strong policies to back up that goal, Wisconsin can follow in the footsteps of the top solar states and start paving the way for the rest of the country. In order to achieve this goal, we need the commitment from our state leaders to enable policies that will grow solar development in Wisconsin.”

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Wisconsin Environment is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water and open space.