Our whirlwind solar conference tour continues! Yesterday we touched down in Minneapolis for the Midwest Solar Expo. We’re especially excited about this conference, because our very own Tony Clifford, CEO, delivered the keynote address last night. He was asked to talk about the Midwest solar market from an outsider’s point of view.

At Standard Solar, we’ve engineered, constructed, and financed distributed generation photovoltaic projects all over the nation, but like many national solar companies, we’re just beginning to look closely at the Midwest. Though market growth has been slow here, that’s changing. These four states are leading the way:

  • * Missouri installed an impressive 73 MW of solar in 2014, which equates to 66% of total installs to date.
  • * Indiana installed 59 MW in 2014, which accounts for more than half of all solar installs in the state.
  • * Iowa installed 14.5 MW in 2014, which represents three quarters of total installations to date.
  • * Minnesota installed 6 MW which made up 30% of total installs.

The other four states for which data is available – Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin – are ranked between 21 and 35 nationally in terms of 2014 installs, and their 2014 installs represent between 10 and 15% of their total installed capacity. These states are not yet growth markets, but they could be soon.

Despite growth in a few key states, there’s no denying that solar has taken a while to launch in the Midwest. Why? A couple reasons as we see it.  First, electricity prices are low. In most Midwestern states, prices are below the national average. Second, state incentives are not attractive compared to those offered on the East Coast or California.

Challenges aside, the Midwest saw a big year for solar growth in 2014. We’re betting on continued growth – at least into 2016. A few reasons for this. First, all those lobbying hours have finally paid off with some better state-level incentives. Legislators are noticing the jobs (174,000 nationwide!) and economic development caused by the solar industry, and they’re lending their support.

Second, and most importantly, solar installation costs have been dropping for years. Costs are now low enough that companies in the Midwest can creatively package available state and local incentives to make more projects economic.

We’re confident that Midwest solar will enjoy solid growth for the next few years. The real test will be 2017. That’s because the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) will expire at the end of 2016.  The ITC is crucially important – particularly in states that lack robust state-level incentives.  The solar industry needs an extension of the ITC to ensure continued growth – not only in the Midwest, but nationally.  More on the ITC in a future blog post.

For now, we’re happy to explore opportunities in the Midwest, and we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure our projects are developed by the end of 2016.