Ten sunniest states added 1.8 GW of small-scale solar

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Solar contractors put up 1.8 GW of PV systems smaller than 1 MW last year, in the nation’s sunniest territory—from California east to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, plus Hawaii. That was just over half of the national total of 3.4 GW of small-scale PV.

California, with two-fifths of the region’s population, added the most small-scale PV, while Arizona placed second, ahead of the more populous Texas. Considering solar per capita, Hawaii remains far ahead, with California a distant second, followed closely by Arizona. In a national ranking, Massachusetts would take second place after Hawaii.

Although the ten states have comparable solar resources—as shown in a solar resource map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory—the amount of small-scale solar per capita varies widely.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects that 3.9 GW of small-scale solar will come online nationwide this year—nearly as much as the 4.3 GW of utility-scale PV that the agency expects.

Here are the small-scale installation data for the 10 states, from EIA’s Form EIA-861M reports:

These totals do not reflect all distributed solar installations—which are defined as installations not directly connected to the bulk transmission grid. That’s because some distributed installations are substantially larger than the 1 MW cutoff that EIA uses to define small-scale solar. EIA does not separately report data on all distributed solar installations.

Policy goals

Policy experts in these states offered their goals for advancing distributed solar in the coming year:

Arizona

Vote Solar is working alongside partners “to ensure that Arizonians who choose solar aren’t surprised with new fees or changes to their rate structure,” said Briana Kobor, the organization’s regulatory director.

California

California’s proposed bipartisan Solar Bill of Rights would make it easier and more affordable for customers to “access clean energy and play a role in tackling climate change,” said Susannah Churchill, Vote Solar’s California director. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is working in California to enact “policies that ensure solar access for all communities and consumers, maintain fair compensation rates, and modernize the grid in a smart efficient way,” said Sean Gallagher, the group’s vice president of state affairs.

Kansas

“Kansas customers have the right to generate their own power without being forced onto discriminatory rates,” said Maddy Yozwiak, regulatory research manager at Vote Solar. Kansas utility Westar has just instituted a demand charge for residential solar customers, she said, and Vote Solar has teamed up with Earthjustice and the Sierra Club to challenge the decision in court.

Nevada

Vote Solar is pleased that state legislators are discussing the SB210 community solar bill, as it would “reduce barriers to access for low-income Nevadans and the nearly 500,000 renters in the state,” said Jessica Scott, the group’s senior director for the Interior West. SEIA’s Sean Gallagher said that “Nevada needs a legislative vehicle to enact the voters’ will of 50 percent renewable energy in the state by 2030.”

New Mexico

Noting the benefits of HB210, the Community Solar Act, Vote Solar’s Interior West Director Art Terrazas said that “Community solar means that every New Mexican, regardless of income, whether they rent, or where they live can access the cost-saving benefits of solar.”

Texas

SEIA is working in Texas to “maintain the market’s recent momentum by defending against potential tax policy changes,” said Mr. Gallagher.

Utah

“Utility attempts to punish solar customers with lower export credits is a tactic we’ve seen across the country,” said Ms. Kobor of Vote Solar, adding that the group is working with local allies to “expose those efforts and urge regulators to put the interests of citizens—not corporations—first.”

Snapshot stories

Here are “snapshot stories” provided by solar contractors, presenting projects from the past year:

This 160 kWdc dual-tilt SunPower Helix fully ballasted system with SMA Sunny Tripower inverters serves an industrial building in San Marcos, California. Built by Cosmic Solar. Image: Pey Shadzi, Cosmic Solar

This 100 kWac rooftop system powers a restaurant in Hilo, Hawaii. Built by ProSolar Hawaii. Image: ProSolar Hawaii.

This 15 kW installation powers a home in San Antonio, TX. Built by TriSMART Solar. Image: James Stone and TriSMART Solar

This 1 MW solar canopy superstructure keeps cars cool at a Fry’s Marketplace store in Goodyear, Arizona. Built by Affordable Solar Installation. Image: Travis Bailey, Park N Shade

This 12 kW installation powers a home in Lawrence, Kansas. Built by JSUNpv. Image: Jason Peterson, JSUNpv