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NerdWallet ranks best states for homeowners to go solar

top five states for solar

Excerpted from NerdWallet infographic. Courtesy NerdWallet.It seems like everyone is coming out with best state’s lists these days. Just recently Environment America came out with its dazzling dozen list of solar-friendly states. Now NerdWallet, a financial advice site, has thrown its wallet into the fray with a list of top five states for solar. Among them are Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawaii and Maryland.

NerdWallet’s conclusions are akin to Environment America’s findings but has the top states in different order. For instance California topped NerdWallet’s list while Arizona topped Environment America’s list. However, Environment America’s study looked at the amount of solar per capita, whereas NerdWallet is looking at what states offer the best combination of factors to make solar worthwhile for a homeowner.

Both studies attributed state solar energy policies as a key contributor to leading states’ reasons for having so much solar. The two most important policies were net-metering policies and renewable energy standards, which require utilities to purchase solar, wind or other renewable energy sources. Another key was whether the states allowed solar leases or third-party ownership.

NerdWallet ranked the states based on four criteria: electric cost, economic incentives, amount of sunshine and amount of solar already installed. “Solar is most advantageous for consumers who already face increasingly expensive electricity bills,” NerdWallet’s Laura Zulliger. Hence California and Hawaii—two of the states with the highest electric rates in the U.S.—made the list. Hawaii, which has the most expensive electricity, was second on the list.

The study also looked at Solar Power Rocks’ results regarding the quality of each state’s incentive programs. “Many states, notably Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York, have made commitments to helping residents’ transition to solar and offer excellent incentives, tax rebates, grants, and subsidies for solar installation,” Zulliger said. The study also looked at how much capacity each state has for solar electric generation.

NerdWallet gave California the highest rating because of its renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. “This high goal encourages generous rebates from utilities to help cover the cost of installation in addition to cash back incentives once the system is in use given support from the California Solar Initiative,” it said. “Cities and municipalities provide even more incentives: in San Francisco cash back incentives range from $2,000 to up to $10,000 depending on household income.” 

Hawaii, with electric prices of 36 cents per kilowatt hour was second. That state has a 35 percent tax credit for solar or a $5,000 credit. Arizona was third, since it has some of the best sun on earth for PV and offers up to a $1,000 rebate and some utilities in the state cover up to 50 percent of installation costs.

Maryland, which has a 20 percent renewable energy standard, was fourth. It offers a $1,000 grant for solar installations and a good net metering program. According to NerdWallet, a solar array in Maryland will typically pay for itself within eight years. Delaware was fifth. Its goal is to source 25 percent of its energy from renewables by 2026. In Delaware a system could pay for itself in five years, thanks to the state’s incentive offerings and electric prices. 

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