Wake-up, Virginia – The Sun is Shining!

I just returned from a business trip that included travel in China and Germany where it’s not very sunny compared to the USA, but where it seems like you can’t travel 100 feet without seeing a solar PV panel or solar water heating collector. It never fails to strike me as odd, upon returning home, the lack of solar power usage in the USA, especially where I am today here in sunny Virginia Beach. Of course, Virginia is home to many high tech companies that invest in, design, develop and/or manufacture solar products, but where do solar energy products end up being installed?

Below, 2010 state rankings from the Solar Energy Industry Association.

1. California: 47 percent with 971 MW
2. New Jersey: 14 percent with 293 MW
3. Colorado: 5 percent with 108 MW
4. Arizona: 5 percent with 101 MW
5. Nevada: 5 percent with 97 MW
6. Florida: 4 percent with 73 MW
7. New York: 3 percent with 54 MW
8. Pennsylvania: 3 percent with 54 MW
9. New Mexico: 2 percent with 45 MW
10. North Carolina: 2 percent with 42 MW

So there may be some surprises here – who would have guessed that New Jersey would have more solar installed than Arizona and Florida combined? Or that New York and Pennsylvania would each beat New Mexico and many other much more sunny places like Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi?

It’s not all about sunshine, as you could guess, it’s also about state government support and local energy costs.

Virginia has no real state support and cheap electric rates. Virginia is a coal state with powerful coal and electric utility lobbies.  The coal companies want to sell coal. The power company helped push through voluntary renewable energy portfolio standards, and then elected not to participate. Wake up, Virgina.

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