Which State Is Leading the Charge in Solar?

What does solar energy adoption look like across America? The cost of solar panels have gone down significantly, but state incentives maybe what's most helping to drive this solar surge.

Which State Is Leading the Charge in Solar?


What does solar energy adoption look like across America? The company Modernize has published a piece, called The Solar Surge, which beautifully illustrates the adoption of solar across America and which states are leading the charge.

The top 10 states with the most solar installations* dating back to as far as 1995, include California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Texas, Maryland, and New Mexico.

The adoption of renewable energy has been growing significantly over the past decade (up around 139,000 percent), due in part to the drop in the cost. Back in 1998, installing solar panels would have cost somewhere around $90,000—hardly a consumer-grade piece of technology. But today, homeowners can expect to pay somewhere below $30,000.

Investments to improve battery and photovoltaic technology continues to drive the price down. Some researchers are even quite optimistic about the adoption of renewable technology—not just in America, but worldwide—they predict fossil fuels could be eliminated in 10 years. But, the researchers say two things needed to happen in order for this prediction to come true:

1) Strong government support 2) coupled with a shift in consumer preferences driven by incentives.

Studies have shown there's a strong correlation between solar adoption and incentives. One study, which examined the effects of financial incentives as a way to encourage solar adoption between 1986 and 2008. They found “cash incentives and the presence of state renewable energy mandates influence grid-tied PV installations the most, and that property and sales tax incentives were also associated with higher PV installations across states.”

As you can see from the graphs below, California has some of the most robust incentives in place, which, in part, explains its residents widespread adoption. Recently, the city of San Francisco passed a city ordinance, which requires all new buildings to come equipped with solar panels. This ordinance builds upon a state law, requiring new buildings to make 15 percent of roofs “solar ready.”

Climate change is a good motivating factor, but nothing moves the masses quite like a good deal. Adoption of renewables will rely on government action and the advancement of solar technology. Government action will dictate whether solar becomes a slow or rapid success in the United States and across the world. In Florida, one of the sunnier states in America, we're seeing just how much funding from utility companies can impact the adoption of solar.

“We have renewables when three times as much as when this president came into office,” says Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Ten times more solar than we’ve ever had. And these are becoming competitive technologies.”

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
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NASA finds water on sunlit moon surface for first time

Water may be far more abundant on the lunar surface than previously thought.

Lunar surface

Credit: Helen_f via AdobeStock
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