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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Arizona Tops Charts in Solar Energy Per Capita

Sep 01, 2014 08:07AM ● By Kena Fedorschak

Arizona is number one in the country in terms of per capita solar production, according to a recent study conducted by the Environment America Research and Policy Center. The state’s success can be primarily attributed to supportive policies from state and local governments. Additionally, ample sunlight and land availability have helped incite Arizona’s solar revolution. The primary benefit of solar power is decreased greenhouse gas emissions resulting from power generation.

The study ranks Arizona first in installed solar per capita. Arizona tripled its solar capacity to 1,821 megawatts (MW) between 2011 and 2013, and the state currently boasts an impressive 243 watts of installed solar per capita. Moreover, Arizona ranks second in terms of overall solar production—only California produces more.

Much of the recent growth in solar has been supported by Arizona Public Service (APS), the state’s largest provider of electricity. APS added approximately 410 megawatts of large-scale solar thermal capacity in 2013—enough to power 100,000 homes. Growth trends are likely to continue, as the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has mandated that Arizona must obtain 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Solar power is on the rise nationwide. Solar photovoltaic capacity in the United States has increased more than 120-fold in the last decade, increasing from 97 MW in 2003 to more than 12,000 MW in 2013. Interestingly, 10 states are responsible for the vast majority of solar energy growth: Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Delaware, Massachusetts, Colorado and North Carolina. While they account for just 26 percent of the U.S. population, they produce a whopping 87 percent of the solar energy consumed.

Solar power is preferable to traditional fossil fuel generated energy due to its limited environmental impact. According to the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire lifecycle. Further, the transition to solar has been a major driver of economic growth. For example, Ted Geisler, of APS, estimates that for every megawatt of solar power generated by a new power plant, the surrounding areas would receive about $1 million in economic benefit from construction spending and other activity.

Despite such drastic growth, solar energy still comprises a small percentage of overall energy consumed in the United States. In 2013, solar energy accounted for just .315 percent of total energy consumed. If all renewable energy technologies including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass are combined, they provide a combined total of about 6.8 percent of energy consumed. Clearly, we have a lot of progress to make to ensure a sustainable energy supply and a clean environment for generations to come.

Kena Fedorschak is pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree at Arizona State University. He believes that sustainable management practices should achieve fiscal, social and environmental goals. Learn more at KenaFedorschak.com.

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