My Solar Nightmare

We identified the most important actions taken by the State of California in becoming the number one state in the nation in terms of solar power. To this end, we find that there are two critical factors that can unleash the growth of solar on a statewide basis no matter where you live.


These two factors are: 1) a streamlined permitting process for small solar PV systems, and 2) a significant monetary penaltyfor obstructing the installation of solar systems (which is designed to be levied primarily on the worst two offenders which are local governments and homeowner associations).


A monetary penalty can be assessed because California passed cornerstone legislation known as the Solar Rights Act of 1979 which placed paramount importance on the right of citizens to access sunlight in order to generate solar energy. Simply put, California determined that access to sunlight is an energy related citizen right’s issue which led to the removal of governmental barriers during the permitting process and established a monetary penalty for those entities that obstruct citizen access. Furthermore, it was quantified by state statute that one third of California’s energy source must be in the form of solar by 2020. These actions place California as the leading state in terms of generation of solar energy. So how do other states fair in their quest for solar?


Here is the breakdown of the top five:


1. California
2. Arizona
3. New Jersey
4. Nevada
5. Colorado


For this article we will focus on Arizona which takes second place due to its geography and receives  ten to eleven hours of sunlight every day. The state was once called “The Persian Gulf of Solar energy” by a former governor. In fact, Arizona may one day become the home of the world’s largest solar plant as a result of a partnership between Abengoa Solar and the Arizona Public Service commission. In 2012, the NREL confirmed that Arizona has the sunlight potential to install 5,147 GW  of solar energy generation systems which is sufficient to generate more than three times the total US consumption. Lucky Arizona is blanketed by the sun…..but it is beginning to feel the heat from interests opposed to solar.


All is not well in Arizona when it comes to solar and it remains to be seen whether this sun blessed state will live up to its geographic bonanza. This is due to the fact that as the electricity companies began to feel the pinch of homes shifting to solar from traditional power, they have worked in earnest to protect their own existence and are trying to reduce the tax credits that have made rooftop solar attractive to customers. Furthermore, the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service Co., announced that it will not need to add much more solar to meet its state requirements. However, the most damaging conversation against solar is the proposed legislation that seeks to repeal mandatory requirements in the statewide use of solar energy. Should this legislation pass it can bring a death knell to solar when and if it is coupled with a tax based on the production of solar energy which is also being promoted throughout the State of Arizona.Far from a certain future, it appears that solar in Arizona will face hurdles and new challenges to growth.