California, Colorado and New Jersey top the list of states with the best solar energy benefits
Posted on Thu, 04/21/2011 - 02:08 PM by Bryan Nisperos
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There are plenty of reasons to choose solar power, but one of the most popular ones is the money that you can save (and potentially earn) by switching to solar. Between net metering, SRECs and the slough of federal and state programs and incentives, solar is becoming more and more affordable each year, and in many cases it can actually be a source of income. The amount of savings, however, varies greatly depending on your location for two primary reasons: the amount of sunny days you'll typically get in your area, and the incentive programs that your state offers. Although there are financial benefits to solar in every state, here's a look at the top ten states for solar power, in alphabetical order.
California is probably the first one that comes to most people's minds when thinking about solar power. For one, they have more sunny days than just about any other state in the union. Couple that with one of the highest electricity rates in the country and nearly 50% savings available using federal and state programs, and California makes a whole lot of sense for anyone considering solar power. Among the many incentive programs available, California has a program that not only rewards building new energy efficient and green homes, but also increases the incentive amount when the solar power system is specifically installed to provide maximum efficiency.
While you may think of snowy Colorado as being bad for solar power, photovoltaic cells actually perform better in cooler temperatures. Colorado averages between 300-320 days of sunshine per year and has one of the highest levels of state funding (nearly 90% when combined with federal programs). Colorado, in recent years, has not only incentives home owners and businesses to utilize green power, but they've maintained an initiative to create new jobs in the solar power and green energy industry (installers, consultants, manufacturing, etc.).
While Connecticut scores nowhere near Colorado and California in terms of sunny days per year, their "Connecticut Clean Energy Fund" provides a hefty amount of incentives and programs to subsidize the purchase and installation of solar power systems. Additionally, legislation is currently in progress to create an SREC market in Connecticut, meaning that owners of solar power systems will be able to generate additional income (currently around $60/SREC) simply by having a solar power system on their property.
Pennsylvania is a big state for coal power, but many politicians and state officials are aware of the need to adopt new, green forms of power. The state programs offer as much as 58% savings when combined with the federal programs. Perhaps the greatest benefit to doing solar in a coal-heavy state is the state requirement to purchase SRECs to offset the carbon footprint of burning coal. This equates to an SREC value of ~$300.
Maryland doesn't offer much in the way of state subsidies or programs, but the MEA (Maryland Energy Administration) does have a program which allows applicants to get on a waiting list for a grant program. This program provides for 20% of the total system cost, which when combined with the other state and federal programs brings your total potential savings to around 55%. The only downside to the program is that the waiting list is rather long, so if you're planning on switching to solar, get your name on the list ASAP.
Massachusetts is another state with a strong SREC market. The market cap for SRECs in Mass. is $550 with the minimum price around $300. This is much higher than typical states and when combined with the available tax incentives and programs make Massachusetts a very attractive state for solar power.
Minnesota doesn't have a great track record for solar power incentives, but recent legislation mandates that the states utilities produce at least 30% of their power from renewable energy sources by the year 2025. In terms of sunny days, you can expect over 200 per year, even if the majority of those sunny days include snow on the ground.
- New Jersey
With one of the highest SREC prices in the country, NJ has become a solar power house in recent years. Owners of solar panel systems can expect to earn, on average, $600 per SREC. This will offer an incentive for smaller systems, but can be a huge money maker for large system. At the current rate, an 11Kw system could end up generating nearly $1000 per month just in the sale of SRECs alone.
- New Mexico
Perhaps the greatest benefit to solar power in New Mexico is that there's almost no cloudy days in a given year. With as many as 350 sunny days per year, that's less than two weeks each year that your solar panels will sit idle. This equates to a lot more bang for your buck in terms of energy savings and less wear and tear on your system from the weather. Additionally, while there is currently not a thriving SREC market in NM, several of the NM utilities will purchase directly from the solar panel owner for as much as $200 / MWh.
Oregon is one of the greenest states in the country and has been offering solar power incentives for over 40 years. While they currently don't have the highest numbers in terms of incentives, it's still a viable choice for solar, and odds are if you're an Oregonian, you probably value green energy a little more than the average American anyways.
Now, just because you may not live in one of these states, doesn't mean that there aren't any government programs available to you. The federal programs are available for every state, and many states not listed here offer additional programs, just not at the higher rates as the top ten. Additionally, some counties and communities have programs available as well, so as with any solar project, you're going to need to do a little research in order to make sure that you're getting the most out of your solar power system and that you take advantage of all of the programs and incentives that you qualify for.
There's a lot to know when it comes to building and installing a solar power system. The components that go into a system are like the parts on a car in that they all work together for the same ultimate goal, but the quality of each component can make a big difference in performance.
A solar power system is one of the biggest investments a homeowner will make, so it's important to make sure that everything is installed properly and built to last. Components vary quite a bit in terms of electrical output, form factor and weight, but most panels will come with a 20-25 year warranty, making solar a long term investment, dependent on a strong foundation of a quality install.
The age of the internet has also ushered in a new wave of DIY thinking. Where in the past, information was a precious resource, today you can learn how to do just about anything with a couple strategic Google searches. Just because you can learn how to do something, however, doesn't mean you should, and when it comes to installing a solar power system, or anything heavy you plan on putting on your roof, it's a good idea to always use the services of a professional installer.
As you get a little closer to pulling the trigger on a solar power system, one of the final steps before actually purchasing a product is to have a professional installer come out to your home and do a site visit. The purpose of this visit is to make sure your roof is appropriate for solar power, determine what kind and size of system you will need and then put together a quote that will show you the pricing and details of your new system. While a good installer will walk you through this process, being a good consumer means having some solid information going into your site visit, so here’s a look at what you need to know before the installer arrives.
Green energy is a growing trend that helps the environment and can save you a lot of money over time. Nearly every neighborhood in America will have at least one or two homes with solar panels on the roof, but some homeowners will resist adopting solar power simply because of the look of the panels. Furthermore, although your homeowners insurance will cover your solar panels, installing anything onto your roof can often void your roof's warranty, discouraging some would-be solar converts. This is where solar shingles come into play, and this new spin on a well-established technology makes a lot of sense for any homeowner considering the switch to solar.