Photo credit: Reegan Moen
Each year, the Solar Power Rocks team scours through the lawbooks of the nation to find the most up-to-date laws and regulations related to solar power in all 50 states. We analyze the data, award letter grades for 12 factors that go into making solar good for homeowners, and collect the findings in our annual State Solar Power Rankings Report.
If you’re a homeowner looking to see if solar can save you money in your state—now and in the future—we think the work we do is second-to-none. But there is work being done by other organizations that can complement ours, shedding light on what potential solar customers want and general trends in the solar industry. Two such groups are The Solar Foundation and EnergySage.
Two reports full of good data
Both of the aforementioned groups release regular reports that contain gobs of good data; scads of scintillating science-iness; oodles of official numbers sourced from solar companies and customers alike. Later in this article, we’ve collected some of the most interesting findings for 5 of our Top 10 Solar States (and one surprising outlier), but for now, let’s look at each report individually.
The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census
Every year since 2010, The Solar Foundation has been collecting data on solar-related employment across the United States. Through their work they’ve borne witness to a huge explosion in the number of solar jobs. After reporting just 93,000 such jobs in 2010, the latest Solar Jobs Census shows a total of more than 250,000 solar workers across the country in 2017.
One of the coolest features of the report is the interactive Solar Jobs Census Map, which allows users to see the number of solar jobs broken down by state, congressional district, county, and more; providing a fine-grained level of detail that can guide policymakers and companies as they make decisions about how to best support the industry and move forward in the marketplace.
The Solar Foundation also came up with a pretty neat infographic that highlights some of the key findings of the report:
EnergySage’s 2017 Market Intel Report
Solar comparison shopping site EnergySage first published its Marketplace Intel report in early 2016. The report covers the nuts-and-bolts of the offers solar companies have made to potential customers through the EnergySage portal, and include data on the cost of solar as well as average system size and estimated payback times.
The data can tell us a lot about solar customers. In general, people seem to be shopping for larger systems. The average quoted system size was 8.7-kW, which is enough to make about 1.5 times the electricity used by the average American household (about 900 kWh per month). This could indicate that solar shoppers using EnergySage are generally more wealthy than the average American, something the solar industry has long sought to change.
Two very interesting data points pop out from the EnergySage report: First, 74% of people shopping for a home solar system are also interested in battery storage.
Image credit: EnergySage
Second, only 5.9% of solar shoppers are now seeking third-party ownership of their solar array (aka, a power-purchase agreement), while the rest want to own their system outright, through a loan or cash purchase. That 5.9% slice is less than half of what it was just 2 years ago.
Image credit: EnergySage
Putting together data for the top solar states
Now it’s time to put together the valuable data from the reports mentioned above with some of our own grades and savings estimates to come up with a more holistic picture of solar in the some of the top solar states.
Because the EnergySage report seeks to give an understanding of the solar industry in good solar states like New York and California, which do well with solar policy; and less-awesome states like Michigan and Virginia, where policy is a little lacking, their report doesn’t contain data for all of our top 10 solar states. So here’s a look at the numbers for 5 of our top 10 solar states, as well as our number 12 solar state, which may surprise you…
The #2 solar state in our rankings also happens to be the place where solar power makes you the most money every year. Yes, we said “makes,” because Massachusetts is home to an excellent solar performance payments program, under which homeowners get paid a bonus for every bit of electricity their systems produce.
People who go solar in Massachusetts now can sign up for the state’s SREC II program, but only for a very limited time. A new program called SMART is scheduled to replace the SREC program later in 2018. For now, the average homeowner with an 8.2-kW system on their roof can expect savings and SREC earnings that average $455 per month in the first year. That’s huge, and if you’re considering solar in Massachusetts, you should read more about it now.
That program has been responsible for a robust solar industry in the state, with one solar job for every 595 residents. The 11,530 solar jobs in the state is good for the 2nd highest overall, but the per-capita number comes in 7th, behind less-populated states like Nevada, Vermont, and Utah.
One final note: the “Cost per Watt Installed” above is the number before incentives are applied. Other than the state-specific SREC program, the big incentive worth knowing about is the federal 30% tax credit for solar, which can reduce your final cost by earning you a tax credit for nearly a third of what you pay for solar. So the 8.2-kW system in Massachusetts could earn you $8,000+ back on your taxes next year.
Following Massachusetts at #3 in our rankings, Little Rhody turns out big savings, to the tune of $283 per month, thanks to the state’s high electricity prices and excellent performance payments program. And even though the average cost per watt is higher here than in any other state profiled in this article, the average system of 7.9-kW can earn you an $8,150 tax break next year. Not too shabby.
The Old Line State came in 4th in our 50-state solar rankings, earning an A for its super-solid policy base and tax exemptions. But in this little roundup, Maryland comes in 1st, with the biggest average system size and lowest average cost of installation.
That means you’ll spend less here to get more solar, bringing you an average of $141 per month in savings and securing an estimated 9-year payback time for your solar system.
The #6 solar state in our rankings comes in with the third-largest system size in the EnergySage report and the second-highest cost of installation. Keep in mind that number is gross cost, which means it’s the number before the federal tax credit.
That 9.1-kW system will cost you almost $31,000 before incentives, but you’ll get over $9,200 back on your tax bill, and New York still has solar rebates for certain homeowners, which can save you additional thousands.
Rounding out our little five-spot of solar states is Connecticut, where residents can save nearly $200 per month with a 9.6-kW solar system on their rooftop. The solar tax credit you can earn with this sized system is an estimate $9,360, and with that incentive and monthly savings, payback time can be as little as 7 years.
And now, please allow us to present the Solar Jobs King, with nearly 750% of the jobs in any other single state. California is the nation’s most mature, most complete solar marketplace, and even though its statewide policy only earns a B in our rankings, it’s also one of the best states for anyone to go solar on their home.
Of the 6 states we’ve profiled here, California has the smallest average system size, at 7.2-kW, indicating that not only do they need less electricity because of their relatively temperate climate, but also that more people are signing up for smaller systems here. Yes, California is the place where solar makes tons of sense on even smaller homes. The electricity prices are high and the sun shines nice and bright for a good deal of the year.
That brings us to the end of our solar states roundup! Very big thanks are due to the folks at the Solar Foundation and EnergySage for the hard work they do to advance the cause of solar energy across the nation.
Last modified: February 4, 2019