Clean Edge: Hawaii leads solar surge in US

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Solar installations in the US have increased by over 40% year on year, according to the 2014 edition of US clean tech research firm Clean Edge's  annual Clean Tech Leadership Index (CTLI).

The 2014 CTLI found non-hydro renewable energy is generating 10% of electricity in 11 states, with solar rapidly increasing in popularity.

The states of Iowa and Dakota generate more than 25% of their electricity from renewables.

For the fifth time, solar-leading state California topped the index, with Massachusetts and Oregon maintaining places at second and third.

New to the index’s top 10 are Vermont and Connecticut – but recent solar headline makers, Hawaii and Minnesota, were bumped from the top 10.

But ranking states solely on the proportion of peak capacity generation met from solar in 2013, Hawaii came out top. In 2013 its 358MW of cumulative PV capacity met 12.9% of the state’s peak capacity, ahead of California’s 7%.

“Some top regions are taking climate action seriously, with double-digit clean-energy adoption rates,” Clean Edge founder and managing director, Ron Pernick said.

Pernick also praised California’s energy storage mandate and New York’s green bank as policy vehicles helping double the rates of clean energy technology adoption.

In the CTLI metropolitan area rankings for clean tech leaders, three city areas are in California: San Francisco top, San Jose second and leaping four places from last year, San Diego came in third.

The CTLI ranking of states and metropolis areas in the US is based on clean tech policy, technology and capital, covering solar installations to green investment to electric vehicles (EVs) across all 50 states and 50 city areas.

The CTLI results are in line with data from the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), showing PV installations grew 41% from 2012-2013. 

According to Ken Johnson, vice president of communications at SEIA the rise of solar installations in the US has “been playing out not just from 2012-2013, but really over the course of the last decade”, with average annual industry growth from 2006-2013 standing at 72%. 

The growth can be attributed to a 62% decline in solar installations costs, and “continued financial innovations that have made solar affordable for more families and businesses than ever before,” said Johnson.

“The industry enjoys huge public support, with nine out of 10 Americans supporting the increased use of solar. The rapid growth of the industry – across utility-scale, commercial and residential sectors – is a testament to this fact,” said Johnson.

Johnson said that states can climb the rankings “by putting in place smart public policies, such as renewable portfolio standards and net energy metering (NEM)”. 

Smart public policy “has already helped to create thousands of new American jobs, pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and significantly reduced pollution, along with the accompanying environmental and health costs”, Johnson added.

Clean Edge senior editor, Clint Wilder said while there have been some regional attacks against clean-tech support policies, such as net metering and renewable portfolio standards, “for the most part, the clean-tech industry and its allies have successfully fought off such efforts.”

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