Rooftop solar panels in North America face south. That’s just the way we do it. But California recently began to incentivize west-facing panels over south-facing solar.
New guidelines from the California Energy Commission call for a 15 percent higher rebates for west-facing solar arrays than for south-facing solar panels.
While solar panels collect more energy overall when they point toward the equator, that annual energy advantage isn’t as important as generating more clean energy in the early evening hours when Californians arrive home from work and turn on their air conditions, televisions and microwaves.
Facing rooftop solar panels toward the setting sun, can increase late-day energy production by as much as 50 percent, according to recent studies.
Hawaii Electric Companies proposed a plan this week to triple rooftop solar on the islands it serves by 2030 and reduce utility bills by 20 percent. But the solar industry isn’t applauding the effort yet.
While Hawaii would get more than 65 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030, the plan calls for measures that could increase costs for home and business owners who install solar, offsetting the benefits.
If you ask people who don’t follow the politics or news about the solar industry which US states they think have the most solar panels, they probably wouldn’t guess Massachusetts or New Jersey. Sure, they would probably get California and maybe Arizona. But they’d also probably expect the Sunshine State to be at the top of the list.
Most people, if they didn’t realize solar installations have more to do with policy than the availability of the actual resource, would think the sunny states in the southeast should sparkle with solar panels as you fly over the region.
St. Petersburg, Fla. Has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 768-day stretch of sunny days, according to an article in the Las Angeles Times. And it would seem like a good place for solar.
In reality, the prospects for the solar industry in the southeast are dim at best, according to the Las Angeles Times article.
It’s not exactly Earth-shattering news that states with more progressive solar policies have more solar energy capacity than states that don’t. But there are a few correlations between solar policy and economic health that might be worth noting.
Environment America released a report on solar policy and solar capacity this week titled Lighting The Way: The top 10 states that helped drive America’s solar energy boom in 2013.