Top ten solar states

Many detractors of solar energy will claim that solar is impractical outside of desert landscapes that receive uninterrupted sunshine. And while sun-kissed locations still top this list of top ten states for solar, the high ranking of states New Jersey proves that solar is a viable energy source even in locations where the weather is uncooperative.

“The success of solar seems to depend more on the cooperation and backing of local governments and businesses than on actual sunshine,” observes Waylon Lewis, owner of a home solar installation in Colorado, one of the top ranking states.

Here's the list of the top ten states that have made an investment in solar technologies.

With an average of 320 to 340 days of sunshine each year, California is the country’s highest producer of solar energy, at 528 megawatts. State and federal programs can slash installation prices by 50 percent.

2. New Jersey
Though the state only boasts 240 to 260 days of sun each year, its solar production capacity is second only to California, at 70 megawatts. This is due in part to the installation of 200,000 solar units on utility and light poles that generate 40 megawatts of energy for the state’s grid.

3. Colorado
With 300 to 320 annual days of sunshine, state and federal programs in Colorado cut installation costs by 70 to 85 percent. The state produced 36 megawatts via solar in 2008.

4. New Mexico
Blessed with 320 to 340 annual days of sunshine, New Mexico is calling for 20 percent of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. The state offers tax credits up to $9,000 for solar thermal and solar PV installations.

5. Pennsylvania
Though it boasts only 160 to 180 annual sunny days, Pennsylvania is determined to support sustainable economic growth by attracting solar companies to the state. State and federal programs can slash installation prices in half.

6. Massachusetts
With 200-220 annual sunny days, the state-funded Commonwealth Solar program will pour $68 million into subsidizing the cost of PV installations.

7. Connecticut
With 200-220 annual sunny days, the state produced 9 megawatts of solar electricity in 2008, but the state is requiring that 27 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2020.

8. Oregon
Known for its rain, this northwestern state still produced 8 megawatts of solar energy in 2008. The state offered a tax credit for solar energy back in the 70s, and today, state and federal programs can offset installation costs by 35 percent. The capitol building in Salem has solar panels on its roof.

9. Minnesota
Though Minnesota has only 180-220 annual sunny days each year, its extreme cold may be driving residents to find alternatives to their high utility bills. State and federal programs can offset up to 45 percent of installation costs.

10. Tie between:
Hawaii (with 14 megawatts of solar production in 2008), New York (22 megawatts), Arizona (25 megawatts), and Nevada (3