The Surprising Top 5 States Where Installing Solar Panels Will Get You Serious Cash

Sure, some sun-soaked states are great places to get some power from the sun. But the complicated mix of tax credits and electricity prices make some less bright states good bets, too.

The best states to install solar panels at home aren’t necessarily the ones with the most sun. That’s one of the more interesting findings from a recent report produced by the personal finance site that ranks the 50 states by how much financial sense solar photovoltaics makes for homeowners.


The top two states crowning the list may come as no surprise: California and Hawaii, both rich in sunshine and progressive attitudes toward environmental issues. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll see Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York in fourth through seventh, respectively–the kinds of states people leave in search of sunshine–while sun-soaked Nevada (9th), New Mexico (13th), Texas (14th), and Utah (28th) cower below. The report looked at a number of factors to produce its findings, including the shrinking costs of solar PV panels to the complicated area of tax credits and subsidies at the state and federal levels.

The four questions that guided the research were:

  • How expensive electricity bills are in the state? (If your electricity costs are already low, solar may not save much.)
  • Does the state offer solar incentives? (All the high-ranking northeastern states do.)
  • How sunny is it? (More sun equals more efficient panels, clearly.)
  • Does the state have much solar capacity already?

California came out on top not just because of its year-round sun, but also because of its expensive electricity costs. Also, “the state has set the loftiest goal of deriving 33% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020,” the report reads. “This high goal encourages generous rebates from utilities to help cover the cost of installation in addition to cash-back incentives once the system is in use.” Less sunny states like Delaware and Maryland cracked into the top five based mostly on the strength of their incentives. (Local utilities in both will pay solar-using homeowners for their electricity.)

NerdWallet’s report isn’t the only recent study to note that policy matters more than sun-rays when it comes to solar. A study by Environment Texas ranked Texas 13th in the nation for per-capita solar installations, despite being one the country’s sunniest. Arizona and New Jersey boast more than 20 times as many solar installations per capita as Texas.

[Images: Sunsets California, Hawaii, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland via Shutterstock]


About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in,, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere.