Chicago, IL – Today, Environment Illinois Research & Policy Center released a new report, Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013, showing strong solar growth across the nation including a 4% increase in Illinois in 2013. The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy to help capture the virtually unlimited and pollution-free energy from the sun.
Illinois’ progress on solar has helped fuel a tripling of solar energy nationwide between 2011 and 2013. In 2013, solar capacity in Illinois grew from 46 MW to 48 MW. While Illinois has progressed on solar, it’s growth has slowed compared to most other states.
“Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option here in Illinois and across the country,” said Lauren Shinaberry with Environment Illinois. “Thanks to the commitment of Illinois’ leaders, this pollution-free energy option is poised to play a major role in helping us meet our environmental goals.”
Solar in the United States increased more than 120-fold in the last 10 years. In the first quarter of 2014, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all the new electric generation capacity installed in the United States. Ten states with the most solar installed per/capita are driving 89% of the solar installed in the U.S, while, representing only 26 percent of the population and 20 percent of the electricity consumption.
And as the solar industry grows, the cost for installed solar decreases; making it more accessible. The price of installed solar systems fell 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013. Jobs in the solar industry are also growing rapidly. In 2013, there were more than 140,000 solar jobs in the U.S., including 2,100 in Illinois.
Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces no pollution; including climate-altering carbon emissions. According the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.
Several strong policies adopted by the top 10 solar states helped encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar:”
- 9 states have strong net metering policies. In nearly all of the leading states, consumers are compensated at the full retail rate for the excess electricity they supply to the grid.
- 9 states have strong statewide interconnection policies. Good interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
- All 10 states have renewable electricity standards that set minimum requirements for the share of a utility’s electricity that must come from renewable sources, and 8 of them have solar carve-outs that set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean, distributed electricity.
- 9 states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements, and 8 allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
Here in Illinois, solar progress is attributed to a number of programs; including the Solar and Energy Wind Rebate Program and a solar carve out in the renewable energy standard. However, progress growth has slowed because of uncertainty about the future of important solar programs and the need to refine the implementation of its solar carves out.
Environment Illinois is a state-wide, non-profit environmental group dedicated to protecting our air, water, and open spaces.