North Carolina has enjoyed a pride in being first in the Southeast in solar power. Not anymore. Florida has done good work and will rank first. The ranking comes from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy report, Solar in the Southeast 2020. (right) Lots of data in the report.

North Carolina solar proponents can take heart, though.  There’s a trap in thinking by rank order on any energy technology, though. Energy is complex – more than a headline from one trade group about one kind of energy.

An excellent energy system has complexity. For instance:

  • Policy makes a difference. Legislators have a task ahead of them. Understand the need for carbon-free energy, but do not try to pick winners and losers in specific technologies. Let technical experts determine the efficient and smart path forward.
  • Energy resources make a difference. Is hydro also a possibility? (Carolinas, Pacific Northwest) Wind? (Midwest, Texas) Geothermal? (West) Wave energy? (Offshore Carolinas)
  • Location makes difference.(Although I saw a story about amazon buying power in Alberta, Canada, not what I usually think about for sunshine.
  • Nuclear helps. Small modular technology a carbon-free resource. My take is that renewables paired with new nuclear are a glidepath for a terrific energy system.

From the SACE report.

Florida, you know, The Sunshine State, will be the Southeast solar leader. A solar business / regulation model is one reason, “Florida Power & Light (FPL) received approval for its innovative SolarTogether program (1,490 MW) that will double the amount of community solar in the United States.”

Location and corporate smarts help Florida. Gulf Power, acquired by NextEra Energy several years ago, popped into the list for its advancements in solar. (This blog’s feature image is a Gulf Power solar installation.) Tampa Electric made the largest percentage increase in solar.

From the US Energy Information Agency.

Don’t mistake the Southeast for the U.S., though. Large utilities have non-regulated businesses in many locations outside the Southeast. “On a state-by-state level, Texas came out on top [in solar], installing more than 1.52 GW of capacity, followed by California and Florida, where 563 and 525 megawatts were installed,” says CNBC.  That was not all from Texas utilities.

Three factors help solar grow, says the report:

  • Policy (“Legislation propelled the markets in both North and South Carolina,” for instance).
  • Customer demand (“Despite obstacles posed by the pandemic, the U.S. solar market set a new annual record with 19.2 GW installed in 2020.” (Source)
  • Economics of solar, which has notably dropped in cost over the years, helped by incentives in some places.

Solar is important, though it is one part of a healthy portfolio approach to energy. Consumers do well to understand and support varied ways to make clean power; part of a balanced energy systems.