The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) keeps tabs on how much solar is installed across the nation and where it’s installed. In the most recent update it noted that California has 9,976 megawatts of solar power installed, nearly half of the solar power installed in the country.
“The United States has slightly more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, which includes utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal installations, as well as distributed generation solar PV systems, also known as rooftop solar,” explained EIA’s Owen Comstock.
Given that California is the most populous state in the nation and that it’s had some of the strongest renewable energy rules it’s no surprise that it’s leading the nation—but more than half is a pretty big achievement. It’s also racked up some other impressive stats within those numbers.
“In 2014, California became the first state to generate at least 5% of its electricity from utility-scale solar plants (i.e., generators with at least one MW of capacity),” Comstock wrote in the latest update. Of that utility-scale solar power—large solar farms—produce more than two-thirds of it’s electric generation. The majority of that, 55 percent, is in solar photovoltaic panels. Giant solar thermal plants produce another 13 percent of the state’s solar power, he said.
It makes sense that giant solar farms produce most of the solar power in the state. Since each farm can consist of 25 megawatts of power in one location—or more and the state’s largest solar project—to date—is the 550 megawatt Solar Star project. But rooftop and distributed solar power accounted for 32 percent of the state’s solar power, that’s not an insignificant amount.
Compared to other states, California’s use of utility-scale solar is higher than the national average, which EIA said is averaging 60 percent. But some other states have a much higher usage of utility-scale solar. “For instance, 94% of North Carolina's 1,070 MW of installed solar capacity is utility-scale systems,” Comstock reported.
On the other hand, in some states rooftop solar is much more prevalent. “In states like New York and Hawaii, distributed generation solar PV systems are more prevalent than utility-scale systems, making up 87% and 89%, respectively, of the total solar capacity in those states,” Comstock said. The differences, according to EIA, are at least partially because of state policies and incentives.Tweet