Best states for solar energy in the U.S.

Best states for solar energy in the U.S.

You can find plenty of information online regarding the use of solar energy on a national level, but what about solar energy statistics on a state level? Read on to find out if you live in one of the best states in the U.S. for solar energy.

General regional differences

As you might expect, regional differences continue to dominate the solar market in the U.S. for both residential and utility-scale solar energy systems. Furthermore, 2014 turned out to be a landmark year for the solar market in all regions of the country. Overall, the U.S. added approximately a gigawatt of solar energy capacity in 2014. This impressive figure may signal yet another turning point for renewable energy as a whole in the U.S.

Likewise, solar energy accounted for approximately 30 percent of new energy generating capacity in 2014, according to the latest available figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). A large amount of solar energy capacity, however, continues to come from one state: California.

Out of all regions in the U.S., the western states of California, Arizona and Nevada account for a fairly large portion of the solar market. Why? The answer is actually fairly straightforward. The southwest region of the U.S. benefits from the ideal climate for capturing solar energy.

Government support of solar incentives from each of these states plays a major role as well. You may be aware of federal solar energy incentives, but many states also offer their own programs to spur the renewable energy market, especially the solar energy market. To put these numbers in perspective, California leads the nation in all types of renewable energy overall, not just solar power.

Along those lines, states in the northeast rank as the best areas of the country for state solar energy incentives, and with respect to pricing per watt too. Here is a closer look at the best states for solar energy.


California has simply had the most success with respect to capacity and continues to rank as the top state for solar power in the U.S. In fact, California installed approximately 4,300 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity in 2014. As you might expect based on this statistic, California also leads the country in total number of installations by household.

According to SEIA, more than a million homes in California now enjoy the benefits of residential solar energy systems. It may come as a surprise to you that California has actually added more solar energy capacity in 2014 alone than the entire U.S. added from 1970 to 2011, which puts California’s dominance in perspective.

Data from the Open PV Project says that California takes top rank overall, but with respect to pricing, residents pay approximately $6 per watt, which is nearly twice the price per watt for solar energy in northeast states like New Jersey and Vermont.

New Jersey

If you live in the tristate area, you’re in luck. New Jersey actually set a record for solar installations in 2014. From a capacity standpoint, New Jersey added approximately 240 MW of solar energy, according to SEIA. More than 35,000 homes in New Jersey now enjoy the benefits of residential solar power.

From a broader perspective, New Jersey ranks third with respect to total solar energy capacity. According to SEIA, New Jersey boasts approximately 1,500 MW of solar energy capacity. Despite the state’s small size, more than 500 solar companies operate in New Jersey.

Like other states in the northeast, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut, New Jersey has plenty of legislative support for solar energy. New Jersey has made progress by establishing better interconnection policies that help residential solar energy users leverage the benefits of grid-tied solar power. Of all states in the northeast, New Jersey arguably has the brightest future when it comes to solar energy, but other states in the region aren’t far behind, which is what makes the northeast such an exciting region for solar power overall.

Although the abundant sunshine in the southwest and northeast make them ideal regions for the use of solar energy, virtually every state in the U.S. gets enough sun to power solar energy systems. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) has calculated the number of kiloWatt hours per square meter (kWh/m²) of solar panel per day of every American state. The southwest states record the highest and most stable level of direct sunlight, at more than 6.5 kWh/m². Parts of Alaska recorded the lowest at less than 2.2 kWh/m². But most states fell into the 4.0 to 6.0 range, indicating that solar resource for PV generation is a stable resource for energy in every state in the country.

RGS Energy has been designing and installing solar energy systems in California, Colorado and the Northeast for almost 40 years. To learn how solar energy can pay off for you or to receive a free quote, visit

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