Report: Oklahoma solar energy policies need attention

Solar panels

Oklahoma is among the 10 worst solar states in the nation, report says

A recent study from the Center for Biological Diversity ranked all U.S. states according to each’s collective ability to promote and encourage solar energy development within its boundaries. Oklahoma made a list, but in a bad way, as it turned out to be one of the bottom 10 solar states in the country.

The study, titled Throwing Shade: 10 Sunny States Blocking Distributed Solar Development, analyzed solar policies by state and also examined the relative success of each state’s current policies. It turns out that Oklahoma has a long way to go, as it sits near the very bottom is current solar capacity. Only a handful of states currently produce less solar power than Oklahoma.

The ten worst solar states in the U.S.

In the study, the Center for Biological Diversity highlighted regions that are “blocking distributed solar potential through overtly lacking and destructive distributed solar policy,” and targeted 10 states in particular — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), that group of ten states owns more than a third (35 percent) of the total rooftop solar energy potential in the contiguous U.S., but accounts for just 6 percent of the total installed distributed solar capacity as of March 2016. The top ten solar states in the U.S., on the other hand, account for 86 percent of the total solar capacity in the U.S. So there’s big gap to fill and there are a lot of opportunities to fill that gap.

Oklahoma gets an “F”

In the report, each state was assigned an overall solar “grade,” and Oklahoma received an “F.” Grades were determined by analyzing policies that may or may not promote solar expansion, and any regulatory barriers that may exist.

The solar potential of Oklahoma, according to the report, is above average. The state ranked 18th in potential for rooftop solar energy. However, the state sits very close to last place in actual installed solar capacity — it ranked 44th in that regard.

Oklahoma currently has no solar access laws, no community solar laws, and a very weak net metering program.

Net metering is system in which owners of residential (usually rooftop) solar installations are compensated by state utilities for unused electrical power generated by their solar arrays. Currently, at least 43 U.S. states have net metering in place in some capacity.

While it is a plus that the state does currently have a net-metering program, the policies in place include a very low system-size limit and current laws do not require utilities to pay customers back for the net energy they generate. Changes in these laws and policies to make them more consumer-friendly would likely compel more homeowners to consider rooftop solar.

Oklahoma seems to have very little focus on solar energy, as much of the state’s energy resources seem to be directed at the practice of fracking, a process of extracting natural gas. Until these priorities change, it seems unlikely that significant progress will be seen in the state’s solar industry.

Source → Center for Biological Diversity