New Jersey ranks fourth in the country when it comes to per capita for solar installations, slipping from the top spot.

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That's according to a new report by Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center entitled Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America's Top 12 Solar States.

Last year, solar capacity in New Jersey grew by 43 percent, bringing it to a total of 971 Megawatts.

"New Jersey historically has been a solar leader across the country. We've been first in the nation for solar per capita. Now, we've fallen to fourth. If this were the solar olympics, we've fallen off the medal pavilion," said Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. "Our neighboring states have caught up to us and part of it is that New Jersey's solar program is not growing and not getting as much investment as it should."

"The sky's the limit on solar energy," said O'Malley. "New Jersey's progress should make us confident that we can do much more. But we can't glide on our past success, and the continued clean energy funding raids by Governor Christie put our progress in peril. More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source directly from the sun. With the increasing threat of global warming, we must maintain momentum."

Other states profiled in the report include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont. While these twelve states account for only 28 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 85 percent of the nation's installed solar energy. Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii round out the top three.

The report highlights the strong policies adopted by the top solar states that encouraged homeowners and businesses to "go solar."

They include:

  • 11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, including New Jersey, which allow customers to offset their electricity bills with onsite solar, and receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.
  • 11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity standards, including New Jersey, requiring utilities to provide a minimum amount of their power from renewable sources; and nine of them, including New Jersey have solar carve outs, which set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean onsite power.
  • 10 of the 12 have strong statewide interconnection policies, including New Jersey. Interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
  • The majority of the states, including New Jersey, allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.