Many American States Are Not Doing Their Best To Encourage Solar Growth

- By Dain Helmers

If you're here, you may already know how important widely available and accessible renewable energy is in limiting damage to local ecosystems, as well as mitigating the global effects of climate change.  But did you know that many U.S. States aren't doing all they can, policy-wise, to support the growth of solar energy, and that some even have policy landscapes that seem to be actively working against the advancement of renewable energy?

The Center for Biological Diversity analyzed each state and found the top 10 states with some of the highest solar energy potential, paired with bad policies in place.  The rankings were based on "thorough review of the presence, or absence, and strength of key distributed solar policies, and, combined with the overall rooftop solar photovoltaic technical potential rankings by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), identified the states that would benefit most from improvements to their distributed solar policy landscapes."  These barriers to rooftop solar panel accessibility are present in most states, but some are performing much worse than others, despite massive potential.   Out of these top 10 worst performers:

  • 7 of them don't have mandatory renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which are important for a safe investment market for rooftop solar. The 3 other states that do have these policies met their low targets a long time ago, so these policies are doing nothing to bolster investment. (21 states lack RPS.)
  • 4 of them don't allow third-party ownership of solar panels - meaning, if you can't afford to buy and install them yourself, you're out of luck.  Renting or leasing private solar panels is illegal in 7 states total, and the legality is unclear in 20 other states.
  • 3 of the worst offenders don't have statewide net-metering policies which allow for solar customers to connect with the grid.  6 states total have no net metering.
  • None of them have community solar programs, which encourage access to solar resources and help create more sustainable communities.  In fact, these programs are only present in 12 states!
  • Five of the 10 least solar-friendly states have no solar access laws on the books to protect residents from restrictions placed on solar panel installations by city code or homeowners associations.  Believe it or not, only 24 states have these protections for solar users.
Map from Center for Biological Diversity

Below are the 10 worst sunny states, solar-policy-wise.












State

RPS

RPS Solar
Carve-out

Net
Metering

Strong Net
Metering laws

3rd
Party Ownership

Community
solar laws

Interconnection
standards

Intercon-nection
law strength

Solar
Access Laws

Potential
Rank

Installed
Solar Rank

Alabama

No

N/A

No

N/A

No

No

No

N/A

No

19

45

Florida

No

N/A

Yes

weak

No

No

Yes

Weak

Yes

3

14

Georgia

No

N/A

Yes

Weak

Yes

No

Yes

Weak

No

10

21

Indiana

No*

No

Yes

Weak

No*

No

Yes

Weak

Yes

13

35

Michigan

Yes

No

Yes

Weak

Yes

No

Yes

Weak

No

8

26

Oklahoma

No*

No

Yes

Weak

No

No

Yes

Weak

No

18

44

Tennessee

No

N/A

No

N/A

No

No

No

N/A

No

14

25

Texas

Yes

No

No*

N/A

Yes

No

Yes

Weak

Yes

2

12

Virginia

No*

No

Yes

Weak

No*

No

Yes

Strong

Yes

11

29

Wisconsin

Yes

No

Yes

Weak

No*

No

Yes

Weak

Yes

16

30
*
Voluntary by utility * Voluntary by Utility *
Law unclear

What are the laws regarding solar access in your state or country?  Chances are, they could use some improvement almost anywhere you're located.  We need to make the move to 100% renewable energy in the next few decades, and rooftop solar panels are a step in that direction.   If you live in one of these states, or anywhere where these laws and other incentives such as tax credits are not present or are inadequate, write to your state representatives.  If enough of their constituents are demanding change, they will listen.  

Find your representative