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October 30, 2015 | Is the Northeast U.S. Going to Get a Solar Energy Makeover?

Solar energy has been booming in the United States for a few years now, and it's showing no signs of stopping. Solar energy is dependable, and it's finally reached a point where it's affordable for homeowners and profitable for companies. Solar projects now have financing options as well, which means more homes and businesses are more easily able to generate their own power.

It isn't just the sunny states like Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and California, either. According to Greentech Media, the Northeast region of the United States should prepare for a long overdue solar storm.

Why The Northeast?

The Northeastern U.S. brings to mind mountain ranges and wilderness. In fact, anything north of New York tends to make people think of old-fashioned colonial life, where things are rural and simple. In addition to that, though, the gloomy autumns and downright dark winters have been immortalized in popular fiction.

Why would anyone want to build solar energy production facilities there?

Well, first of all, it's because the popular image of the region isn't the reality. While it's true that the Northeastern U.S. has significantly less solar insolation than states to the far south, it's far from the gloomy rural expanse one might picture. In fact, the entire region boasts a big population, lots of cities, and even more small towns — population centers that, when taken together as a whole, represent as much as $6.75 billion in investment opportunity.

Bringing High Costs Down

When it comes to choosing regions to bring solar power investment to, it's about more than how much sunlight those areas get. While solar insolation is an important consideration, it's also important to ask how much those residents are currently paying for power, what sort of competition exists in the area, what kind of government incentives there are, and how much space there is to construct solar projects.

In many of these respects, the Northeast is a largely untapped region. There is a great deal of roof space, which makes it ideal for both small and mid-sized solar projects, and the utility prices across the area tend to be fairly high. There has also been a trend recently to try to encourage alternative energy projects, which means companies have a big opportunity to break ground in an entirely new market.

How Big of a Change Could This Be?

According to a recent assessment of the region, between the roughly 274,000 rooftops that would support solar systems, and assuming an average system of 350 kilowatts, the Northeast region represents as much as 94,700 megawatts of solar electricity.

That represents a huge gain in electricity, if all of it can be utilized.

While there's no question that solar power companies are going to try to get a foothold in the Northeastern part of the U.S., there are other questions cropping up with this new assessment. For instance, will the spread of solar energy slow, or stop, if local governments change their incentive packages? Will there be additional sources of energy, like hydropower or wind power, that will work together with solar? Are there unique challenges that will have to be tackled in this region that haven't been true in other regions?

Time will tell on a lot of these questions. There is a definite possibility, however, when it comes to utilizing the natural resources of smaller communities; it's possible to go off of fossil fuels much more quickly. While there are currently three cities in the U.S. which have eliminated fossil fuels entirely, and several more who will achieve that goal in the next few years, big investment in smaller towns can lead to turning off the fossil fuel tap a lot more easily.