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Why a state’s solar carve out is so important

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Published on 12/22/2014 in
Updated 02/04/2016

The best states for solar use their Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) laws to ensure that at least some portion of energy generated in the state comes from solar power.

An RPS basically says “at least a certain percentage of the total energy generated in the state has to come from renewable sources.” And an RPS usually has a deadline—most often sometime after 2020 or so. But “renewable sources” can mean a lot of things, from hydroelectric power to wind, so some states (the states we love best) have created a sub-requirement of their RPS laws called a solar carve-out.

See how pretty?

A solar carve-out (aka “solar set-aside”) is a really important factor in the cost of solar for homeowners, because solar carve-outs ensure that utility companies have an incentive to give you money to put solar panels on your roof. The best states tell utility companies “you can either start generating energy from the sun, or pay a big fine.”

Since large-scale solar installations take years of planning, zoning, re-planning, building, etc., and a home solar installation can be designed and built in a matter of a month or two, utility companies offer rebates to their customers who will agree to sell their solar power back on the grid.

Research has shown that state solar carve-outs really make a big difference, too. Authors of a 2014 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) found that “solar-related policy, especially solar set-asides within renewable portfolio standards (RPS set-asides), have a quantifiable effect on installed capacity [of solar panels].”

And, y’know, “quantifiable effect” is as close as research scientists get to saying “works really well.”

All in all, sixteen states have solar carve-outs in the RPS laws. Here they are, with the amount of the carve-out on the right:

North Carolina0.2% by 2019
Missouri0.3% by 2021
New Hampshire0.3% by 2025
Massachusetts0.5% by 2020
Pennsylvania0.5% by 2021
Ohio0.5% by 2026
Minnesota1.5% by 2020
Illinois1.5% by 2025
Nevada1.5% by 2025
Maryland2% by 2022
Arizona2.25% by 2025
New York2.5% by 2015
Washington DC2.5% by 2023
Delaware3.5% by 2027
New Mexico4% by 2020

Some of the states listed have already hit their carve-out targets, meaning some of the juiciest incentives have already dried up. As always, the friendly local installers we partner with can give you free quotes and explain all the rebates and other incentives that might be available to you.

Last modified: February 4, 2016

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