These States Are Completely Missing Out on Solar Power
There’s a reason people on all sides of the political spectrum balked at the Trump administration’s solar tariffs. For starters, it nearly guaranteed higher prices for business and residential customers. Meanwhile, it was hailed by the solar industry as an absolute job killer.
Yet solar remains the future of energy. You don’t have to drill into the ground, run a pipeline under farms, or otherwise mangle the landscape in order to take advantage of it. Once you have a way to harness it, solar continues returning on your investment for as long as you live.
However, elected officials in some states never got the memo, and they continue to miss out on the energy savings — as well as the jobs that come with the industry. To find out what sunny places have missed the boat, we ran through each state’s potential in Google’s solar mapping project and matched the worst with the grades each got for solar-friendly policy.
Here are 15 states that are completely missing out on solar power in 2018.
- There’s a ton of untapped solar potential in Indiana.
According to data collected by Google, 75% of rooftops in Indiana could benefit from solar installations. However, fewer than 1,000 existed as of February 2017.
Meanwhile, state policies leave little incentive for homeowners to install panels, and there’s no minimum for electricity production. If Indiana tapped its potential, it could avoid producing 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Next: In Arkansas, the solar industry hasn’t even gotten started.
- It’s fair to say solar hardly exists in Arkansas.
While an impressive 76% of roofs in Arkansas could generate power, only 238 existed in the state as of 2017. Looking at the state’s report card for 2018, you can see what’s going on here.
In brief, there is almost no incentive for Arkansas residents to install panels and begin utilizing this energy source. That’s a shame, because a state with such a high rate of lung cancer could use all the clean air it can get.
Next: The sun shines on South Carolina, but no one’s taking advantage.
13. South Carolina
- Clean air and cheap energy are South Carolina’s for the taking.
According to Google data, 77% of roofs in South Carolina can take advantage of solar power. However, a small fraction are doing so. As of 2017, a paltry 1,300 installations were online.
Even with an increase in solar power usage in the past few years, South Carolina isn’t close to tapping its potential. According to a Solar Power Rocks analysis, available tax credits here are the only thing going for the state.
Next: Some 80% of buildings in Tennessee could use solar panels.
- Major solar potential combines with paltry implementation.
In Tennessee, 80% of buildings could be using solar panels, but the statewide numbers (1,300 installations) are pathetically low. Overall, state policy doesn’t do much to help, though the Tennessee Valley Authority does buy back solar energy from homeowners.
If the number of installations reached its full potential, the state could take 18.7 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the energy production mix every year.
Next: While Michigan isn’t Hawaii, there so much sunlight going to waste here.
- At 70% viability, Michigan is a lot sunnier than many would guess.
While no one thinks of Michigan as a tropical paradise, the state actually ranks No. 8 in solar potential, a Center for Biological Diversity analysis found. That’s better than Georgia.
However, Michiganders have not yet tapped into this power source. As in many other places, state policy is to blame, and the potential job growth falls by the wayside.
Next: Like the stars, plenty of sun falls on Alabama, too.
- Sunny Alabama’s solar policy could hardly be worse.
Close to 80% of Alabama buildings could be harnessing energy from the sun. Yet a mere 549 installations existed as of the first half of 2017.
Looking at the state report card, it’s clear Alabama government policy deserves the blame. Stagnant wages across the state could surely use the boost solar could supply.
Next: There’s massive solar potential in Missouri.
- What would Missouri air be like with 16.7 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide?
As is the case with so many states in the Midwest, Missouri hasn’t come close to realizing its solar potential. Going by Google data, 78% of buildings state-wide could effectively use solar.
However, only 2,900 installations were in place at the latest count. Instead of dropping 2.7 million metric tons from energy production, Missouri has continued with the status quo.
Given the chaos in the state legislature, we don’t expect things to change anytime soon.
Next: While Oklahoma has gotten on board with wind, the solar industry is still a dud.
- Sunny Oklahoma has nearly no solar industry.
In a state where wages have stagnated and air quality leaves much to be desired, Oklahoma has not tapped one of its best resources (i.e., the sun). Put another way: Of the 88% of buildings in the state that could use solar energy, a sad 800 had installations in 2017.
That makes Oklahoma one of the sunniest states in America. (Oklahoma City ranked No. 8 among cities for top solar potential.) State energy policy, which retains the influence of Scott Pruitt, is clearly to blame for the lack of solar energy use here.
Next: Even with notoriously cold winters, Wisconsin has a great deal of solar potential.
- Chilly Wisconsin ranked 16th for solar potential but 30th for use.
Even a place famous for snowy winters would get major benefits from solar energy. According to Google mapping data, some 72% of buildings in Wisconsin are solar-viable.
However, fewer than 2,000 installations existed as of 2017. In a state where joblessness and declining industries remain a problem, it’s hard to understand why Scott Walker and his legislature haven’t turned to solar.
Next: With 91% of buildings ready for solar, New Mexico is missing the boat.
6. New Mexico
- Even with decent solar policy, New Mexico isn’t close to realizing its potential.
There are several things New Mexico has done well with solar, beginning with the minimum it requires for state energy production (4%). However, that hasn’t helped enough in a state where 91% of buildings could access this energy.
Altogether, it makes New Mexico one of the states with poor wages that could do much better by turning to a growing industry.
Next: While the solar industry could do a lot for Mississippi, state policy stops it in its tracks.
- You still find Mississippi at the intersection of low wages and bad air quality.
If we told you a very sunny state had a total of 356 solar installations in 2017, would you believe it? Sadly, that’s the case in Mississippi, a place not known for forward-thinking policy.
That’s a shame, considering 77% of buildings are ready for solar installations. Meanwhile, we estimate 100% of Mississippi workers are ready for the sort of good-paying jobs the solar industry brings.
Next: Kentucky’s state government makes it hard on anyone who wants to put a solar installation in place.
- Dirty air and stagnant wages make Kentucky’s poor solar policy sting.
Going by new lung cancer cases, no state is worse than Kentucky. Since wages are also bad, you’d think elected officials would explore some cleaner forms of energy — especially if they brought jobs with them.
That hasn’t happened in Kentucky, where 83% of buildings could make use of solar power. In 2017, Google counted a paltry 707 installations across the state.
Next: Terrible state policy leaves sunny Louisiana in the dark on solar.
- For state policy, it doesn’t get worse than Louisiana.
Out of the 51 states (including D.C.), industry analysts put Louisiana in dead-last (51st). There is simply no state policy that supports the installation and use of zero-emissions solar power.
In a state where 84% of buildings could use solar effectively, Louisiana’s basement-level wages could certainly use the boost the industry would bring.
Next: It’s hard to find a sunnier state doing less than Florida.
- The Sunshine State has massive solar potential it has yet to tap.
As far as solar potential goes, Florida is nearly unparalleled. Only California and Texas have more possibilities for harnessing the energy source. (Some 88% of buildings could use it effectively.)
Unfortunately, state policy under Governor Rick Scott and the state legislature has utterly languished. (This group did outlaw plastic bag bans, though, so maybe Floridians can find a way to cool their homes with them?)
According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Florida doesn’t even rank in the top 10 for solar installations per capita. They should probably change the state nickname if this continues.
Next: You can mess with Texas when it comes to solar power it doesn’t use.
- The Lone Star State has the greatest untapped solar potential in America.
With San Antonio (No. 4) and Houston (No. 1) at the top of U.S. cities for solar potential, it’s impossible to ignore what solar could do for Texas. Some 85% of buildings in the state are ready to use sunlight for power here.
Unfortunately, the state hasn’t begun to tap its enormous potential: Just 14,000 installations existed in Texas as of 2017. (In this oil-and-gas state, places like El Paso actually tax people who install solar panels on their homes.)
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