Most Americans have become more concerned with the idea of using cleaner energy sources and creating new jobs through the use of solar energy. A new study from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University takes a closer look at which states might benefit the most both from generating solar energy and from consuming that energy. “These are believed to be the first state rankings of their kind” says Debbie Freeman, Communications Manager at the school.
“We see a growing trend by states to increase the importance of renewable electricity generation,” says assistant research professor Matthew Croucher, who authored the report. “However, the biggest take away from this study is that if the U.S. is serious about maximizing the societal benefits of solar generation, then we need to look at the national level at how different states can serve not only their own needs, but also those of other states with less ability to create electricity using solar technologies.”
The study was just published in The Electricity Journal. It ranks states based on several criteria. To find out where we should ideally create solar energy for the country, Croucher looked specifically at solar insolation, whether a considerable amount of energy can be generated in each state, as well as the cost of doing so there.
As the movement toward using more sustainable energy and solar continues, many states look to build their renewable energy portfolios. However, too often, the focus is placed only on states that are optimal renewable solar energy generation states. That would only be appropriate if the infrastructure were designed for self-sufficiency conditions. Instead, a combination of factors tied to both solar generation and consumption should be involved in determining the ideal locations for advancing solar power development and infrastructure across the nation.
Ideal states should have: a relatively high level of solar insolation (ability to generate a significant amount of solar energy), a fairly large amount of economic activity resulting from solar energy being deployed, a reasonably low cost of energy installation, higher than average current prices for electricity, and the potential for electricity production through solar power that would offset large amounts of carbon emissions.
Interestingly, the states that ranked highly varied in geography, size, population, and climate. Surprisingly, some of the states one might quickly point to as ideal locations for solar power are noticeably absent from the top (e.g. California and Utah tied at No. 30, Nevada No. 21, and Florida No. 15), when focusing on self-sufficiency solar conditions.
The research also explains that states save Hawaii or Alaska don’t exist in solar isolation, and power grids are typically not built strictly with state boundaries in mind. So, there could be a great opportunity for states that generate solar power more effectively and at greater rates to distribute power both within their own borders and to nearby states that are viable targets for efficient consumption.
With the highest average cost of electricity and relatively high carbon emissions, Hawaii (No. 1) ranks at the top because solar deployment would be so beneficial under those conditions. Being the state closest to the equator and all the sunny days help, too.
In large part, New Mexico’s (No. 2) appeal for solar deployment is the rate of job creation that would result from solar power, as well as the fact that it is the second best in the nation in terms of “solar insolation.”
Above-average costs of electricity, above-average carbon emissions due to production of electrical power, and a top five solar insolation ranking earn Colorado (No. 3) a top spot in the Optimum Solar Deployment Index (OSDI).
Despite having relatively low electricity prices, Missouri (No. 4) is actually the sixth best state based on cost per watt for installing solar power. It also presents better-than-average opportunities to create installation jobs from solar power infrastructure, making it an ideal candidate for solar deployment.
Rated as the third lowest cost-per-watt for solar installers on the OSDI and among the leaders in solar insolation, Georgia (No. 5) rounds out the top five best solar deployment states.
Perhaps surprising to some, Texas (No. 6) is a straight arrow in terms of carbon emissions resulting from production of electricity. Solar deployment is appealing given the state’s better-than-average cost of deployment and the fact that it has the 13th highest average price of electricity.
Current electricity prices and carbon emissions are below average and don’t support the arguments for solar deployment in Arkansas (No. 7) anywhere near as much as the potential for green jobs. Among the top 10 for impact in terms of job creation, Arkansas’ appeal is less about geography and more about economics.
Tied with neighboring Mississippi, there would be less benefit as far as job creation compared to its western cousin. But, the impact on carbon-emission reduction in Alabama (No. 8-tied) would be greater.
Sharing a border, being at virtually identical latitude, and both having about the same 50,000-square-mile area, Mississippi (No. 8-tied) and its eastern neighbor are similar in solar insolation. But, the magnolia state has higher electricity costs and significantly more opportunity for job creation.
Epitomizing a perfect combination of optimal generation and optimal consumption, Oklahoma (No. 10-tied) is ranked 21st among the 50 states on both lists, helping push it into the top 10 overall solar deployments ranking.
A bit of a shock considering its balmy weather, but Wisconsin (No. 10-tied) is actually among the top 10 best states for solar deployment. This is primarily because it is fourth best on the list of optimal consumption states so despite being in the bottom half in terms of generation states, it has much more optimal economic and social conditions for implementing solar power infrastructure.
Additional source for solar article was Huffington Post.