Utilities across U.S. embrace solar energy

Solar energy is spreading quickly across the country with utilities from North Carolina, Tennessee and Ohio entering the solar market with new investments.

This is according to the U.S. Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), which recently ranked utilities across the nation in terms of how much solar energy they have incorporated into their user base.

The rankings break down solar installed capacity into many categories. SEPA's Top 10 by Solar Megawatt ranks utilities by installed capacity for solar. Together the top 10 account for 73 percent of all of the solar capacity that was installed in 2012.

Among the top three in the megawatt rankings are some of the nation's largest utilities — California's Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) with 805 MW installed and Southern California Edison (194 MW) plus Public Service Electric & Gas Co in N.J., which installed 144 MW. These utilities often rank highly in this category, says SEPA, due to their expansive customer solar programs and utility purchasing programs.

Rounding out the megawatt list are:

Arizona Public Service (APS) — 123 MW

NV Energy — 102 MW

Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) — 98 MW

Tucson Electric Power Co. — 73 MW

Progress Energy Carolinas — 69 MW

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) — 65.8 MW

Hawaiian Electric Co. — 65.1 MW

This is the first year that Progress Energy Carolina's made the list, whereas all the others were previously ranked in 2011. This is the fifth year that PG&E has topped the list.

SEPA also ranks utilities on a watts-per-customers basis, showing which utilities made strides in powering their customers' homes and businesses with solar energy. Leading the Solar Watts-Per-Customer rankings are many municipal utilities including the city of St. Mary's, Ohio, with 562 watts per customer, Kauai Island Utility Co-op in Hawaii (282 W per customer) and Bryan Municipal Utilities in Ohio (275 W per customer).

Both Ohio utilities were not previously ranked and Kauai moved up from number 12 in the 2011 ratings. The remaining Top 10 providers include Hawaiian Electric Co., Chickasaw (Tenn.) Electric Co-op, Maui (Hawaii) Electric Co., Imperial Irrigation District in Calif., Tucson (Ariz.) Electric Power Co., city of Napoleon in Ohio and Vineland Municipal Electric Utility in N.J.

Julia Hamm, SEPA's president and CEO said she was impressed with the number of utilities that had moved into the top 10. SEPA works to education utility companies about solar energy and help solar companies understand the complexities of the utility business model and its work is clearly having an impact.

This article was originally published on RenewableEnergyWorld.com. It was republished with permission.

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