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Residential solar production increases across the Mountain West

Solar panels on a house
Skytech Solar
Flickr Creative Commons

News brief

The Mountain West might not have the top solar-producing states, but residential solar saw a significant boost across the region last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EIA also reported that the western U.S. does produce the most solar, but that’s largely thanks to national leader California. That one state, alone, eclipses solar production in every Intermountain West state combined, at more than 13,000 MWs.

However, the top performer within the Mountain West is Arizona.

Its small-scale solar output increased 13% between July 2021 and July 2022 to more than 2,000 MWs, or 5% of the nation’s small-scale solar.

The largest increase over that time frame was in Idaho, which increased 52% to 108 MWs.

And Wyoming produced the least in the region with only about 14 MWs as of July, but it also has the nation’s smallest population. Even Wyoming outperformed the Dakotas, though, where almost no solar energy is being adopted.

Add residential solar gains to growing large-scale solar farms, and the sector is booming.

Solar “represented the largest share of new electricity generation onto the U.S. grid last year. And looking to the future, it’s only projected to grow,” said David Feldman, a senior analyst with the National Renewable Energy Lab.

He notes that sunlight availability and state net metering policies also affect residential solar adoption, or lack thereof. Essentially, net metering refers to billing and compensation for residents who produce renewable energy that can be fed back into the grid.

Feldmen noted that there was funding for solar energy production and energy grid infrastructure in the federal Inflation Reduction Act, but that there may still be challenges connecting all the new solar energies to the grid.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Madelyn Beck was Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.

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