New Jersey became the third state in the U.S. to install more than 1 gigawatt of solar this week, and was third for newly installed solar in 2012. The state was outpaced in new installations by California and Arizona. California itself surpassed 1 gigawatt of new solar installations in 2012, then again you can fit nearly 19 New Jerseys within California’s borders and more than four times New Jersey’s population (8.9 million) in California (38.4 million). On the other hand, California surpassed another interesting benchmark last week—more than 1.5 gigawatts of solar installed on its rooftops. Both states are leading the U.S. in adopting solar, and which state has the most solar in terms of watts installed per person is not clear at the moment.
In 2012 according to the recent U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012, the annual report from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, California installed 1,033 megawatts of solar, surpassing the 1 gigawatt mark. Meanwhile Arizona with 710 new megawatts wasn’t far behind, and despite being much, much smaller geographically than the two leading states, New Jersey installed 415 new megawatts of solar last year. In 2012 solar installations grew at a much more rapid pace in California and Arizona than in 2011—542 megawatts and 273 megawatts, respectively—than in New Jersey, which saw 313 new megawatts of solar in 2011.
That brought New Jersey up to 1,008 megawatts of installed solar, according to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Upon hearing the news, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said, "Reaching the 1GW of solar capacity milestone is an incredible achievement and represents New Jersey's continued commitment to renewable energy. It is clear that New Jersey will remain one of the largest solar energy markets in the United States."
New Jersey now has more than 20,000 solar installations. According to the state’s utilities commission, it now has solar installations on more than 15,500 residences, 3,000 commercial sites, 300 schools, and 200 government projects.
As the largest solar market in the nation, California has surpassed that on rooftops alone. Last week, Environment California observed that on the Go Solar California website the state had installed 1.5 gigawatts of solar on rooftops. “As of last Thursday, the numbers were 1,500 MW installed at 143,376 solar projects. The site is typically updated on Wednesday or Thursday of each week,” Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California and Environment California Research & Policy Center, tells SolarReviews.com.
The achievement in California puts the California Solar Initiative well on its way to realizing its goal of 1,940 megawatts of installed distributed solar by the end of 2016.
California celebrated passing the 1 gigawatt benchmark in November 2011, meaning that the state’s rooftop solar market has grown approximately 50 percent in less than a year and a half. This dramatic rate of progress is developing according to plan.