Midwest and Northern Tier states added 400 MW of small-scale solar in 2019

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Across a region spanning Alaska to West Virginia, solar contractors added 407 MW of small-scale solar in the 12 months ending in November, 2019. Illinois topped the list with 111 MW, versus 26 MW in 2018.

Small-scale installations are defined as those smaller than one megawatt.

Oregon retains the lead in cumulative small-scale solar per capita, with Iowa closing in at second place and Missouri a close third. Idaho added the most small-scale solar per capita last year, followed by Illinois and Missouri. All three states were at or near the national average of 10 watts of small-scale solar added per capita for 2019.

Here are the results from the 19 states, as reported in the federal Energy Information Administration’s Form EIA-861M data:

EIA does not collect data on all distributed solar installations, which are defined as those not directly connected to the bulk transmission system, and which can range much larger than 1 MW.

Policy goals

Because state policies are a major driver of the success of distributed solar, we invited several groups to share their 2020 policy goals for distributed solar.

Illinois: The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) advocates for the Path to 100 Act, which would set a renewable portfolio standard of 40% by 2030, said Nakhia Morrissette, SEIA’s central region director and counsel. The act would support development of residential, commercial, and community solar through the existing Adjustable Block Program, she said.

Vote Solar advocates in Illinois for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which calls for 100% renewable energy by 2050, said John Delurey, Midwest director. The act includes the Solar for All program, which is dedicated to low-income and environmental justice communities, he said.

Kentucky: KYSEIA, the state-level affiliate of SEIA, is lobbying for House Bill 323, which would extend net metering, said KYSEIA President Matt Partymiller. KYSEIA also opposes a solar setback bill, he said.

Michigan: Vote Solar advocates expanding the net-metering cap in Michigan, and establishing pathways for community solar development, said John Delurey, Midwest director.

Minnesota: Vote Solar will be working to “expand and improve Xcel’s Solar*Rewards program,” and to catalyze more community-owned and community-sited solar, said John Delurey, Midwest director.

Montana: The Montana Renewable Energy Association “recently celebrated a huge regulatory win to maintain retail rate net energy metering,” said Executive Director Andrew Valainis. The group aims to increase the allowable size for distributed energy resources, and “enable supporting policies like aggregate billing and shared solar for our investor-owned utilities,” he said.

Midwest and Northern Tier solar potential

The solar potential of the Midwest and Northern Tier is shown in the maps below, with the map at right representing the highest potential in the desert Southwest as pure red, and the lowest potential, in the two northern bands, as pinkish red—as it is still 70% of the highest potential. Data for both maps are provided in the data key in the map at left. Both maps show global horizontal solar irradiance.