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California Leads Solar Installation Trend by a Landslide

“It never rains in Southern California” isn’t just a turn of phrase or the name of a 1970s song by Albert Hammond. (When I was a little girl I used to sing, “It never rains in sunny California,” which actually fits the topic of this blog better.)

California, perhaps in part due to its beautiful weather but more because of very generous solar incentives, is the top-ranked state for residential solar PV system installations, according to the Q3 2010 report U.S. Solar Market Insight, published by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

Not only is California the residential solar leader, but it had more than six times the amount of residential solar PV installations than the second place state, Arizona. (Incidentally, another state known for sunshine and year-round warmer weather). California boasts 56 percent of the U.S. residential solar arrays. Arizona accounts for only 9 percent, and percentages drop from there.

You Don’t Really Need That Much Sun for Solar Power
While the two leading solar states may seem to send the message that you need lots and lots of sun for successful solar power, a glimpse down the list shows that’s not the case at all. Third, fourth, fifth, and sixth place states, Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, respectively, aren’t exactly known for buckets of sunshine, and their winters get pretty harsh. (So can their summers and falls, as evidenced by recent flooding from hurricanes and tropical storms in Jersey and Pennsylvania.)

Whatever amount of sun you have, you can have a cost-effective solar array if it’s installed right and properly maintained. What goes into solar PV array installation and maintenance? Basically, keep it clean, keep the snow off it, and keep it free from obstructions like tree branches and fallen leaves.

When installed, solar panels should ideally face south (or southwest or southeast) and should be in the sun rather than shadows for the greater part of the day.

Solar Incentives Make The Difference
It’s actually the solar incentives and rebate programs — along with governmental support for solar energy generation, which goes hand-in-hand with state incentives — that makes the difference when it comes to how many rooftops in a state sport solar panels.

Interestingly, California doesn’t even rank in the top 10 cheapest states for solar; it comes in number 11, 6 cents behind number 10 Texas and 81 cents behind top-ranked Colorado, the cheapest state to install solar panels. It costs $6.71 per kilowatt to install solar panels in California.

However, this can be attributed to the higher cost of living in California vs. Colorado; raw materials, labor and transportation all cost more in California, which drives the price of solar PV array installations up. Also, the costs listed are before rebates and incentives, which can vary by municipality.

Curious to see where your state ranks in terms of the number of solar PV arrays? Check out the chart below representing the third quarter of 2010, and learn more at the SEIA website.

Post Written by
A full-time freelance writer, Dawn frequently covers energy efficiency, green living, and topics like LED lighting and whole home control systems for a number of blogs and technology trade magazines. Dawn is proud to live in New York as the state vies to beat out New Jersey as the East coast top dog of solar energy and is waiting for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate legislation to pass before installing solar panels on her Long Island home.

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