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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson January 25, 2018

Is California No. 1 in solar power and solar jobs?

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., wasn’t happy about President Donald Trump authorizing tariffs on solar energy cells and panels.

"No state generates as much solar power as California, or has as many people whose jobs depend on it. This is an attack on California," Harris tweeted Jan. 24, two days after Trump signed the order.

We wondered whether Harris was correct about how California ranks in U.S. solar power generation.

First, a word about the tariffs. They will start at 30 percent and then fall over a four-year period to 15 percent, with some exceptions. The biggest expected loser will be China, which has become the world’s largest supplier of solar equipment. The U.S. solar industry has been divided on the tariffs. Two companies — Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld Americas — pushed for them, though many end users of solar equipment and solar energy expressed concern about the impact on consumer prices.

The most complete state-by-state data on solar power comes from the Solar Energy Industries Association, the industry’s trade group.

The group’s data shows that California ranked first among states nationally in installed solar capacity in 2016 with 18,296 megawatts.

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California ranks far ahead on this score. The next-closest state is North Carolina, with less than one-sixth the amount of installed solar capacity. The other states in the top 10 are, in order, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, Massachusetts, Georgia, Texas and New York.

As for jobs, California also ranks No. 1, with 100,050 positions tallied by the group. The second-ranking state in solar jobs is Massachusetts with 14,582 —only about one-sixth as many as California.

That isn’t entirely surprising: California is the nation’s most populous state and third-biggest by land area behind Alaska and Texas. It also tends to get a lot of sun.

On a per capita basis, the group’s data shows California ranks fourth in solar capacity behind Nevada, Utah and Hawaii. It also ranks fourth in solar jobs per capita, behind Massachusetts, Nevada and Vermont.

That said, there’s little question that California has actively encouraged solar energy in recent years due to state policy efforts and consumer preferences.

Our ruling

Harris said, "No state generates as much solar power as California, or has as many people whose jobs depend on it."

The raw numbers back her up, it’s worth noting that the state’s size is a factor. On a per capita basis, California ranks fourth in both solar capacity and solar-related jobs. We rate her statement Mostly True.

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Mostly True
"No state generates as much solar power as California, or has as many people whose jobs depend on it."
a tweet
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Our Sources

Kamala Harris, tweet, Jan. 24, 2018

Solar Energy Industries Association, "Top 10 Solar States," accessed Jan. 24, 2018

Solar Energy Industries Association, "Solar Spotlight: California," accessed Jan. 24, 2018

Solar Energy Industries Association, "U.S. Solar Market Sets New Record, Installing 7.3 GW of Solar PV in 2015," Feb. 19, 2016

Solar Foundation, Solar Jobs Census, 2016

U.S. Census Bureau, "State Area Measurements and Internal Point Coordinates," Jan. 25, 2018

New York Times, "Trump Slaps Steep Tariffs on Foreign Washing Machines and Solar Products," Jan. 22, 2018

Email interview with Alex Hobson, senior communications manager at the Solar Energy Industries Association, Jan. 24, 2018

Email interview with Tyrone Gayle, Harris’ press secretary, Jan. 24, 2018

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Is California No. 1 in solar power and solar jobs?

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