Updated December 11, 2013
Arizona is the sunniest state in the nation. It receives more than 4,000 hours of sunshine each year. This makes Arizona an ideal state for making solar energy work.
The modern solar industry, founded in 1974 following the Arab oil embargo of the previous year, experienced tremendous growth from the end of the 1970s through the late 1980s. The mainstay of the solar industry during that timeframe was solar water heating. It is estimated that more than 100,000 solar water heaters were installed in Arizona during the 1970s and 80s.
Today, Arizona ranks second only to California in market share for the burgeoning rooftop solar photovoltaic industry. Although solar electricity is only about one percent of the energy mix in Arizona, analysts predict phenomenal growth for solar power over the next two decades. Traditional market drivers like favorable public policy (rebates and net metering) and tax credits, are getting a boost from falling prices and growing acceptance of alternative financing mechanisms that allow commercial and residential end-users to lease rooftop solar electric systems.
And as the solar industry grows, so does its beneficial effect on society, such as greater energy independence, improved environmental enhancements, and positive economic impact on jobs. In 2012, the Solar Energy Industries Association estimated that 9,800 people were employed in the solar energy industry in Arizona and approximately 120,000 full-time, permanent jobs nationwide.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that nationally the photovoltaic (solar electricity) industry will grow by 11.6 percent a year through 2040 and that the solar thermal industry will grow at 3.6 percent annually.
But, solar energy is more than just equipment.
Passive solar homes (homes that are designed for natural heating and cooling) are popular in both mountain and desert areas of the state. Some of these homes have adobe, rammed earth, or straw bale as a building material. Others solar homes feature strategies and techniques such as solar porches, greenhouses, solar clearstory windows, trombe walls and solar air heaters.
Whether in rural areas or urban settings, Arizonans throughout the state are proving that solar energy can be used by anybody. Solar energy is not a vision of the future; it is an opportunity for today.