How U.S. States Stack Up Against Global Solar Competition

Solar energy is officially the fastest-growing energy source – in the world. The planet’s rapidly growing fleet of solar panels generated 30% more electricity in 2015 than it did in 2014, making clean power captured directly from the sun the world’s fastest growing source of energy.

However – just how quickly is it growing across the globe? And secondly – how does the US chalk up to other countries?

Well, when it comes to solar energy, the US is still lagging against the rest of the world – (we’re 22nd on a per capita basis) – however, the US is just getting started on the path to a solar energy future and installations are growing steadily each year.

To visualize how individual states compare to the rest of the world, we matched each state to a country with a similar amount of solar installed per capita. We measured this via watts peak per capita (Wp/capita).

US-Country-SolarChart (3)There are a few insights we noted straight away, for instance:

  • States with strong solar radiation (AZ, NV, NM), expensive power (CA, MA, NJ), and regulatory regimes supporting solar (VT,MD,NH) tend to have higher Wp/capita
  • Developed countries with strong regulatory framework (Europe), strong policy incentives / expensive power (Islands) are more likely to have higher Wp/capita
  • Rural states/developing countries with  access to oil and gas resources (Southeast US, Midwest, Africa, etc) tend to have lower Wp/capita.  They also tend to be the ones with the weakest renewable energy policies.
  • Developed countries with strong fossil fuel resources (Middle East) have higher Wp/capita due to economic/policy incentives to maximize exports
  • Developed countries with low solar irradiance tend to have lower Wp/capita

We found that Massachusetts has the most solar installed per capita of any US state with 285 watts per capita, similar to Belgium. Although Belgium and Massachusetts both have lower than average sunlight, they have relatively expensive electricity and regulatory measures in place to encourage solar adoption.

Another interesting fact – Germany, the global solar leader per capita, has over 50% more solar installed per capita than Massachusetts and nearly 10x more solar installed capacity per capita than the U.S. as a whole.  

How does your state check out? Share with your friends and to learn more about going solar visit Powerscout.com!


The map measures states based on solar watts installed per capita. Here’s a quick explanation on how that’s calculated:

The size of a power plant size is based on its peak energy output at a given instant in time, a measurement known as Power and reported in units of Watts.  The size of a Solar PV system is calculated as the Watts of power the panels can produce in laboratory conditions, which assume sunlight hitting the panels at an intensity of 1,000 W/ m sq, a temperature of 25 degrees C, and a wavelength similar to sunlight through an airmass of 1.5.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population
https://www.eurobserv-er.org/pdf/2016/EurObservER-Photovoltaic-Barometer-2016-EN.pdf
https://openpv.nrel.gov/rankings **This is a community based data set maintained and curated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
http://www.iea-pvps.org/fileadmin/dam/public/report/PICS/IEA-PVPS_-__A_Snapshot_of_Global_PV_-_1992-2015_-_Final_2_02.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_(United_Nations)
http://www.mesia.com/wp-content/uploads/MESIA-Outlook-2016-web.pdf
https://www.transpower.co.nz/sites/default/files/bulk-upload/documents/EEA%202016%20TP%20Renewable%20approach.pdf
https://www.irena.org/DocumentDownloads/Publications/IRENA_Solar_PV_Costs_Africa_2016.pdf

Summary table of the solar installations and populations for U.S. States:

State Cumulative MW Population Wp/Capita Country Match
MA               1,941.27           6,811,779        284.99 Belgium
NJ               2,283.67           8,944,469        255.32 Japan
AZ               1,647.16           6,931,071        237.65 Greece
CA               7,378.77         39,250,017        187.99 Czech Republic
NV                   359.85           2,940,058        122.40 Slovenia
DE                     93.97              945,934          99.34 France
NM                   187.71           2,081,015          90.20 Netherlands
CT                   248.61           3,576,452          69.51 Canada
VT                     39.39              624,594          63.06 Cyprus
MD                   181.86           6,016,447          30.23 Taiwan
NY                   574.99         19,745,289          29.12 China
NH                     33.77           1,334,795          25.30 Egypt
CO                   135.13           5,540,545          24.39 Lithuania
IN                   131.39           6,633,053          19.81 Morocco
HI                     26.80           1,428,557          18.76 Cabo Verde
PA                   239.76         12,784,227          18.75 Thailand
RI                     18.81           1,056,426          17.81 South Africa
MO                     92.83           6,093,000          15.24 Algeria
OR                     56.98           4,093,465          13.92 Hungary
OH                   137.72         11,614,373          11.86 Sweeden
TX                   322.42         27,862,596          11.57 Croatia
FL                   135.43         20,612,439             6.57 New Zealand
NC                     56.26         10,146,788             5.54 Malaysia
ME                       7.00           1,331,479             5.26 Algeria
UT                     12.45           3,051,217             4.08 Pakistan
WI                     22.84           5,778,708             3.95 India
TN                     22.36           6,651,194             3.36 Finland
MN                     18.44           5,519,952             3.34 Turkey
IL                     27.91         12,801,539             2.18 Saudi Arabia
AR                       4.85           2,988,248             1.62 Estonia
IA                       4.15           3,134,693             1.32 Norway
MI                       7.63           9,928,301             0.77 Poland
KY                       3.30           4,436,974             0.74 Mexico
WV                       1.14           1,831,102             0.62 Philippines
ID                       1.04           1,683,140             0.62 Latvia
GA                       6.09         10,310,371             0.59 Ireland
KS                       1.64           2,907,289             0.56 Senegal
LA                       2.15           4,681,666             0.46 Burkina Faso
WY                       0.21              585,501             0.36 Mali
SD                       0.28              865,454             0.32 Zimbabwe
MT                       0.30           1,042,520             0.29 Niger
WA                       2.05           7,288,000             0.28 Djibouti
MS                       0.76           2,988,726             0.25 Botswana
VA                       1.39           8,411,808             0.17 Tanzania
AK                       0.12              738,432             0.16 Central African Republic
NE                       0.28           1,907,116             0.15 Ghana
SC                       0.64           4,961,119             0.13 Zambia
ND                       0.09              757,952             0.12 Malawi
OK                       0.31           3,923,561             0.08 Zambia
AL                       0.14           4,863,300             0.03 Cameroon

Summary table for the installations and populations for leading solar countries:

Country Cumulative MW Population Wp/Capita
Germany             39,700.00              80,688,545            492.02
Italy             18,920.00              59,797,685            316.40
Belgium               3,250.00              11,299,192            287.63
Japan             34,410.00            126,573,481            271.86
Greece               2,610.00              10,954,617            238.26
Kuwait                     90.00                    389,215            231.23
Luxembourg                   125.00                    567,110            220.42
Australia               5,070.00              23,968,973            211.52
Czech Republic               2,080.00              10,543,186            197.28
Malta                     73.00                    418,670            174.36
Switzerland               1,360.00                8,298,663            163.88
Bulgaria               1,020.00                7,149,787            142.66
Denmark                   789.00                5,669,081            139.18
United Kingdom               8,780.00              64,715,810            135.67
Slovenia                   257.00                2,067,526            124.30
Spain               5,440.00              46,121,699            117.95
Austria                   937.00                8,544,586            109.66
Israel                   881.00                8,064,036            109.25
Slovakia                   591.00                5,426,258            108.91
France               6,580.00              64,395,345            102.18
Netherlands               1,570.00              16,924,929               92.76
United States             25,620.00            321,773,631               79.62
Canada               2,500.00              35,939,927               69.56
South Korea               3,430.00              50,293,439               68.20
Romania               1,330.00              19,511,324               68.17
Cyprus                     69.00                1,165,300               59.21
Jordan                   437.50                7,594,547               57.61
Honduras                   389.00                8,075,060               48.17
Chile                   848.00              17,948,141               47.25
UAE                   410.00                9,156,963               44.77
Portugal                   454.00              10,349,803               43.87
Taiwan               1,010.00              23,381,038               43.20
China             43,530.00         1,376,048,943               31.63
Egypt               2,337.50              91,508,084               25.54
Lithuania                     73.00                2,878,405               25.36
Thailand               1,420.00              67,959,359               20.89
South Africa               1,120.00              54,490,406               20.55
Morroco                   637.50              34,377,511               18.54
Cabo Verde                       9.51                    531,239               17.90
Hungary                   137.00                9,855,023               13.90
Sweden                   130.00                9,779,426               13.29
Algeria                   437.50              39,666,519               11.03
Croatia                     44.00                4,240,317               10.38
New Zealand                     37.00                4,528,526                 8.17
Malaysia                   231.00              30,331,007                 7.62
Algeria                   300.00              39,666,519                 7.56
Pakistan               1,000.00            188,924,874                 5.29
India               5,050.00         1,311,050,527                 3.85
Finland                     20.00                5,503,457                 3.63
Turkey                   266.00              78,665,830                 3.38
Saudi Arabia                   106.25              31,540,372                 3.37
Estonia                       4.00                1,312,558                 3.05
Norway                     15.00                5,210,967                 2.88
Poland                     86.00              38,611,794                 2.23
Mexico                   282.00            127,017,224                 2.22
Philippines                   155.00            100,699,395                 1.54
Latvia                       1.00                1,970,503                 0.51
Senegal                       7.40              14,799,859                 0.50
Ireland                       2.00                4,688,465                 0.43
Burkina Faso                       7.61              19,034,397                 0.40
Mali                       7.34              18,341,000                 0.40
Zimbabwe                       4.27              14,240,168                 0.30
Niger                       6.21              20,715,000                 0.30
Djibouti                       0.27                    900,000                 0.30
Botswana                       0.45                2,230,905                 0.20
Tanzania                     11.03              55,155,000                 0.20
Ghana                       2.83              28,308,301                 0.10
Zambia                       1.59              15,933,883                 0.10
Malawi                       1.68              16,832,910                 0.10
Zambia                       1.59              15,933,883                 0.10
Cameroon                       2.27              22,709,892                 0.10
Central African Republic                       0.50                4,998,000                 0.10