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The SEIA recently announced the top 10 solar states in the country with California leading the way.

The solar industry has shown steady growth in the past few years, and one reason is the rising interest of residents looking at solar photovoltaic (PV) equipment, reported the Liberty Voice. Renewable energy sources are gaining popularity, and education on how systems work, while debunking myths, has increased Americans' knowledge on solar power.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently released a new infographic ranking the top 10 solar states in the U.S. by investigating how many megawatts of solar were added, and each state's total capacity.

Here are the top three states for solar power:

1. California
There's no real surprise that California leads the U.S. in solar, and it's a great example of how renewable energy can be a viable option. According to the SEIA, California installed 2,745.8 megawatts in 2013, which is the equivalent of powering 607,689 homes. The state installed half of all its solar capacity in 2013, which, according to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Spectrum, as of March 7, 2014, pushed the total solar capacity to more than 5.2 gigawatts setting a new record for solar power generation.

California has several solar initiatives to get residents and businesses involved in the industry. According to the source, the state has a goal to reach 33 percent renewable energy by 2020.

"This shows that California is making remarkable progress in not only getting new resources approved and connected to the grid, but making meaningful contributions in keeping the lights on as well," Steve Berberich, president and CEO of the California Independent System Operator, said in a statement, according to IEEE Spectrum.

2. Arizona
While the second-place state has an estimated 2,000 MW less than California, Arizona is still becoming a leader in new solar power production. According to SEIA, Arizona installed 700.7 MW of new solar energy in 2013, which is the equivalent of powering 126,894 homes in the state.

Arizona's total electricity generated by solar panels in 2014 will save enough water to fill 25,000 swimming pools. While solar power is helping the state save on energy bills, it's also saving massive amounts of water in an area that is prone to droughts and water conversation mandates.

Arizona also saw the second-most clean energy jobs created during the fourth quarter of 2013, reported Environmental Entrepreneurs, according to KTAR-FM.

"For all of 2013, we saw more than 78,000 clean energy and clean transportation jobs announced in almost every state in the country," Bob Keefe, the communications director for E2, told KTAR-FM. "These are jobs that are everything from making the parts to installations, companies and big utility grade solar farms that you're seeing across Arizona these days."

3. North Carolina
One of the fastest-growing states in solar energy is North Carolina, and it installed 335.4 MW in 2013, which is the equivalent of powering 31,809 homes, reported SEIA. Data centers are growing extremely popular in North Carolina, and the amount of energy produced in 2013 was enough to power 213,000 computers.

There is no single reason behind the continuing growth of solar in North Carolina. Rather, a number of factors such as adequate policies, a responsive industry and research and development expertise in the state are attracting significant solar investment, reported The Energy Collective.

North Carolina is seeing industries such as universities, the growing military presence and the increasing high tech commerce take off in the state. Solar energy is available to take advantage of these growing industries and power them in an eco-friendly way. According to the source, many North Carolinians are realizing how solar can help as the state continues to build from its early achievements amid a recovering economy.

To learn more on how towns across the nation are benefiting by installing solar power systems, visit SunWize's website.

Most of 2013's renewable energy jobs are related to solar.

The solar power industry continued to create jobs in 2013, according to a survey by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) - a non-partisan community of business leaders who promote environmental policies. The survey revealed more than 20,000 solar jobs came into existence in the last year – 13,000 of those jobs were created in the fourth quarter of 2013 and originated from more than 70 solar projects.

While the total number of jobs made in 2013 through solar was fewer than in 2012, E2 believes 2014 could see a major uptick in growth, given demand and supportive policy. 

"Our report makes it clear," said E2 executive director Judith Albert. "When we invest in clean energy and clean transportation, we put people to work in every corner of the country. Whether it's a new wind farm in Iowa, an energy efficiency retrofit in Massachusetts, or a utility-scale solar array in Nevada, these projects require American ingenuity and labor. The sector is helping stimulate our economy."

E2 looked through a total of 260 major solar projects across the U.S. The military was responsible for many of them. In fact, 120 jobs alone were created in New Jersey for a project installing photovoltaic equipment on McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst​ – a military base.

The top states for producing solar energy jobs were California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, New York and Missouri. In total, 46 states added renewable energy jobs in 2013. California by itself accounted for 15,400 new renewable energy-related jobs.

The climate action plan
According to the E2 report, one of the biggest changes to the solar jobs scene was the Climate Action Plan, which establishes new standards for carbon pollution emitted by U.S. power plants. E2 estimates the impact on 2013 jobs for the action plan was small because the standards have not yet been finalized. The standards, however, are likely to have ripple effects in future years as power companies find new and affordable ways to offset their carbon emissions through clean energy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in charge of developing updated carbon emission standards, slated for release in June 2014. It will be up to each individual state to implement those standards. E2 predicts states will – in order to comply with emissions standards - require a more robust renewable energy infrastructure.

State lawmakers approve of clean energy
State leaders are already beginning to step up their renewable energy game in face of 2014's impending carbon emission standards, according to the source. Iowa, for example, was recently granted $1.03 million by the federal government to promote the installation of photovoltaic equipment in homes and businesses.

"As a leader in wind energy and renewable fuels, Iowa should be at the front of the pack in implementing programs that encourage the use of solar energy as well," Gov. Terry Branstad said while announcing the grant.

Iowa plans on adding 300 MW of solar PV in the next five years, which will create 2,500 jobs, E2 reported.

How Minnesota is promoting a solar economy
Although not a top state, Minnesota is still contributing to solar jobs by encouraging the growth of its solar energy through programs that emphasize the development of local solar companies. Minneapolis's solar energy incentive program, Made in Minnesota, became over-subscribed, according to Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE. The program connects state solar companies with Minnesota residents who want to install solar on their property.

According to Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, the program was sold out so fast that the submissions made in January and February will be selected via a lottery system, KARE reported.

"It's a phenomenal success," Rothman said at the Solar Powering Minnesota conference in St. Paul. "It just shows the increasing demand and sort of what's at the ready."

There is also a new law that requires utilities to produce 1.5 percent of their electricity through solar by 2020, according to KARE.

One model for Minnesota to follow is Germany, according to Minh Le, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's solar technologies office.

"When I look out the window today it's overcast, but I'm often reminded that even though this is the northernmost state in the continental United States, you boast more sunlight than the country of Germany," he said. "Germany has installed more solar in the past decade than any other country in the world."

Arizona is aiming for number one in solar jobs
A recent article in the Phoenix Business Journal discussed the reasons why Arizona is still behind on solar compared to California. Arizona currently ranks second in solar jobs and installations, according to the source.

Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, argues that the reason California is doing better than Arizona is California's more aggressive renewable energy standard. California aims to have 33 percent of energy generated by renewable sources come 2020, compared to Arizona's goal of having 15-percent renewable energy by 2025. She believes that power companies in California will save more money in the future by investing in solar today.

"People want to save money," Del Chiaro told the Phoenix Business Journal.

To learn more on how towns across the nation are benefiting by installing solar power systems, visit SunWize's website.

Virginia has made major progress with its new solar laws.

Virginia has a poor track record when it comes to embracing solar energy, but that is starting to change, according to Renewable Energy World. Proposed legislation aims to promote Virginia as a new hot spot for the solar industry.

Bills in Virginia aim for the sun
According to Power for the People (PFP), some of these energy bills have passed through the House or the Senate. However, many have not yet been voted on.

Some of the new laws include an investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy. This bill is still waiting on the voting processes before it passes, but it looks promising, according to PFP. So far, it has passed the Senate but not the House, and advocates have begun an email campaign to alert House members to its importance and relevance to Virginia. The bill is called HB​ 910, and it was introduced by Delegate Ron Villanueva​, R-Virginia Beach.

Other bills have already passed. For example, there is no longer a ban preventing solar from being installed on homes that belong to home owners associations, according to PFP. This bill is called SB 222, and it was started by Rep. Chap Petersen D-Fairfax.

In the past, members of a home owners association weren't allowed to install solar, but now they can so long as the HOA doesn't specifically ban solar equipment.

Additionally, solar systems have been redefined as pollution control equipment. This allows for a tax incentive, as previously the equipment was considered machinery and tools, which is a different tax category. The bills for this law were SB 418 and HB 1239, introduced by Sens. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, and Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax.

Solar is making small steps in Virginia
According to News Leader, the redefinition of solar systems as "pollution control equipment" was a major game changer because it makes solar much more affordable.

The legislation had taken two years to enact because it was continually rejected by lawmakers until this year.

"It's a step in the right direction as we become more focused on environmental concerns," said Hanger.

The success behind the bill lay in getting together a number of stakeholders, Republicans and Democrats alike, and forming ties with solar companies and environmentalist groups.

Although a true state tax credit does not yet exist in Virginia, there was another bill, SB 653, that passed through the General Assembly. This bill is a $10 million renewable energy grant for fiscal year 2016. According to the bill, the grant would "equal 35 percent of the costs paid or incurred to place the renewable energy property into service, not to exceed $2.5 million for any individual piece of renewable energy property."

Still more to be done
Virginia is considered "coal country," however, there are still solar supporters who are making a difference, according to News Leader.

"There has been a good deal of success this year, and this focus on renewable energy was fortunate to have bipartisan support," said Corrina Beall, legislative coordinator for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club.

According to Environment and Energy Publishing, the U.S. grid that partly supplies electricity to Virginia, along with several other states in the Southeast, has the potential to switch to 30 percent renewable energy without any ill effects, assuming that PJM Interconnection (the power company running the grid) makes adequate preparations and investments.

"The study's main conclusion is that the PJM system, with adequate transmission expansion (up to $13.7 billion) and additional regulation reserves (up to an additional 1,500 MW), would not have any significant reliability issues operating with up to 30 percent of its energy (as distinct from capacity) provided by wind and solar generation," GE Energy, a consulting company, said.

PJM service territory covers 13 states, relying mostly on combustible fuels for much of its generative capacity.

To learn more about how businesses and government entities can start buying solar energy with no upfront costs, visit the SunWize website.

Virginia has made major progress with its new solar laws.

Virginia has a poor track record when it comes to embracing solar energy, but that is starting to change, according to Renewable Energy World. Proposed legislation aims to promote Virginia as a new hot spot for the solar industry.

Bills in Virginia aim for the sun
According to Power for the People (PFP), some of these energy bills have passed through the House or the Senate. However, many have not yet been voted on.

Some of the new laws include an investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy. This bill is still waiting on the voting processes before it passes, but it looks promising, according to PFP. So far, it has passed the Senate but not the House, and advocates have begun an email campaign to alert House members to its importance and relevance to Virginia. The bill is called HB​ 910, and it was introduced by Delegate Ron Villanueva​, R-Virginia Beach.

Other bills have already passed. For example, there is no longer a ban preventing solar from being installed on homes that belong to home owners associations, according to PFP. This bill is called SB 222, and it was started by Rep. Chap Petersen D-Fairfax.

In the past, members of a home owners association weren't allowed to install solar, but now they can so long as the HOA doesn't specifically ban solar equipment.

Additionally, solar systems have been redefined as pollution control equipment. This allows for a tax incentive, as previously the equipment was considered machinery and tools, which is a different tax category. The bills for this law were SB 418 and HB 1239, introduced by Sens. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, and Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax.

Solar is making small steps in Virginia
According to News Leader, the redefinition of solar systems as "pollution control equipment" was a major game changer because it makes solar much more affordable.

The legislation had taken two years to enact because it was continually rejected by lawmakers until this year.

"It's a step in the right direction as we become more focused on environmental concerns," said Hanger.

The success behind the bill lay in getting together a number of stakeholders, Republicans and Democrats alike, and forming ties with solar companies and environmentalist groups.

Although a true state tax credit does not yet exist in Virginia, there was another bill, SB 653, that passed through the General Assembly. This bill is a $10 million renewable energy grant for fiscal year 2016. According to the bill, the grant would "equal 35 percent of the costs paid or incurred to place the renewable energy property into service, not to exceed $2.5 million for any individual piece of renewable energy property."

Still more to be done
Virginia is considered "coal country," however, there are still solar supporters who are making a difference, according to News Leader.

"There has been a good deal of success this year, and this focus on renewable energy was fortunate to have bipartisan support," said Corrina Beall, legislative coordinator for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club.

According to Environment and Energy Publishing, the U.S. grid that partly supplies electricity to Virginia, along with several other states in the Southeast, has the potential to switch to 30 percent renewable energy without any ill effects, assuming that PJM Interconnection (the power company running the grid) makes adequate preparations and investments.

"The study's main conclusion is that the PJM system, with adequate transmission expansion (up to $13.7 billion) and additional regulation reserves (up to an additional 1,500 MW), would not have any significant reliability issues operating with up to 30 percent of its energy (as distinct from capacity) provided by wind and solar generation," GE Energy, a consulting company, said.

PJM service territory covers 13 states, relying mostly on combustible fuels for much of its generative capacity.

To learn more about how businesses and government entities can start buying solar energy with no upfront costs, visit the SunWize website.


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