USDA: Solar Energy Development Varies by Region

Solar energy development has been concentrated in the Atlantic and West regions of the United States, especially in California, North Carolina, and Massachusetts, according to new data from USDA’s Economic Research Service.

These states are among those with policies that have promoted renewable energy development—much of it occurring in rural areas. Between 2016 and 2020, utility-scale solar capacity in rural areas more than doubled, increasing to 45 gigawatts, 3.7 percent of U.S. electric power capacity, and the number of solar projects increased from 2,316 to 3,364. Roughly 70 percent of the solar projects installed between 2009 and 2020 in rural areas were located on agricultural land. About 336,000 acres of rural land were estimated to have been directly affected by solar development.

USDA reported the data in a recent report that examined land cover and land cover change associated with solar and wind farms over the period 2009–20.