State (s) of Distributed Solar Energy – Updated 2018

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Published on March 25, 2019 |
by John Farrell

March 25, 2019 by John Farrell

Originally posted on

Update of the end of the year 2018

Renewable energy has continued to grow throughout the country in 2018. This expansion complements a growing number of states, utilities and cities that have set ambitious goals to move to a sustainable production. 39, 100% renewable and carbon-free energy.

The new solar photovoltaic capacity, including that generated by small-scale distributed solar systems (such as rooftop panels of a house or a business), shared community solar gardens, as well as large scale systems, has played a significant role in the overall transition to clean energy.

A growing number of states are giving priority to investments in solar energy.

The following map illustrates the size of each state's solar market at the end of 2018 with pie charts showing the corresponding share of smaller distributed solar systems (1 megawatt and below). By exploring this map, we can see which states have the largest share of distributed solar energy, investments that help create wealth locally, and empower individuals and communities to take ownership of their energy future.

In this year's map, we added a snapshot of data from Minnesota's leading community solar garden program to highlight the success of this program and illustrate an alternative model to larger scale solar projects that do not entirely reside in the homeowners. utilities in place.

Given that community solar systems typically have a rated capacity greater than 1 megawatt, we plan to start tracking and disaggregating similar data into the growing number of states that have adopted similar policies that allow or require strong programs to support. Shared renewables (in 2018, 18 states and the District of Columbia did so to varying degrees). This will allow us to include community solar capacity in future analyzes of the country's solar market.

For more information on solar and renewable energy programs in state communities, visit our interactive community map. To learn more about the success factors of these programs, check out our detailed report entitled Beyond Sharing: How Communities Can Own Renewable Energy.

Solar Total and Percentage Distributed by State – 2018

As this map shows, more and more states are making solar a priority. By 2018, 11 states now claimed more than 1,000 megawatts of total solar capacity (in red) and 37 had more than 100 megawatts (in yellow, orange, and red).

Of the 11 states that currently supply more than 1,000 megawatts of solar power, three leaders continue to claim a share of more than 50 percent of distributed generation: New Jersey (2,195 megawatts of total solar energy, of which 67 percent comes from small scale), Massachusetts (2156 megawatts, 67% small scale) and New York (1499 megawatts total solar), where 83% of the total solar energy comes from small distributed sources.

The established solar markets are not the only ones to have been successful.

The booming markets for distributed solar power in the Midwestern states, such as Ohio and Illinois, have also benefited from policies promoting better access and more local control of energy infrastructure . Residents of Athens, Ohio, for example, are striving to support clean energy investments by exercising a community choice, which state policy has helped to to permit. Illinois has experienced a rapid growth in its solar market since the adoption of the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016. The state has favorable rules for net metering and interconnection that encourage distributed energy and is currently developing a shared renewable energy program to increase solar access for tenants households or businesses that may have shaded roofs. Such policies have helped the state obtain the "A" rating in the ILSR 2019 Community Independence Scoreboard.

In general, we find that states whose political landscapes are more supportive of local energy decision-making tend to see a higher percentage of distributed solar energy, which also benefits communities by creating wealth locally. and empowering them to take more ownership of their clean energy future. .

Unfortunately, not all states have policies that facilitate investments in distributed and shared solar systems. We see this happening again in the number of states that rely more on large-scale, large-scale solar systems than on small-scale distributed solar energy.

To learn more about the importance of state energy policies in promoting local renewable energy, check out our recent complementary analysis to the ILSL Community Power Scorecard 2019 dashboard. Stay tuned for a further in-depth comparison between states' distributed solar capacity and the performance of their scorecards.

By 2018, in a majority of states, large scale solar projects have claimed greater total solar capacity and a larger share of this capacity. These large-scale solar projects require more capital initially, more time for construction, and are generally left to investor-owned utilities to be operated and managed.

Is it bigger better? ILSR's 2016 report dodges the myths and shows how small-scale solar energy offers a competitive alternative to utility-supplied electricity and far greater local benefits.

Many of these utility companies are actively involved in creating favorable conditions by fighting for better choice and better control of customers. Recently, lawmakers in New Mexico have been considering a bill that would provide assistance to one of the existing utilities, which could deprive local property of any future investment in renewable energy.

The future monopoly of energy or energy democracy? States have an important role to play in determining the path that communities ultimately choose.

This analysis of the states of distributed solar energy is updated each year. For a historical overview, explore our archived analyzes of state-distributed solar systems in 2017 and 2016. Stay tuned for a future in-depth comparison of states' distributed solar capacity and scorecard performance.

This article has been posted to For timely updates, follow John Farrell or Marie Donahue on Twitter or get the Weekly Energy Democracy update.

Keywords: community solar energy, distributed solar, Institute for Local Self Reliance, local property

About the author

John Farrell leads the Democratic Energy Program of ILSR and focuses on energy policy developments that best broaden the benefits of local ownership and dispersed renewable energy production. His seminal article, Democratizing the Electrical System, explains how to remove barriers to decentralized renewable energy production and how such small scale renewable energy projects are key to the greatest progress in the development of renewable energy. renewable energy.

Farrell is also the author of the historic Energy Self-Reliant States report, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussions and analysis on the renewable energy policy distributed on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (, and articles are regularly published on Grist and Renewable Energy World.

John Farrell is also available on Twitter @johnffarrell or on [email protected]

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