When you think of solar energy, places like California, Spain, and Florida may come to mind; regions of the world blessed with sunny weather all year round.

In the absence of abundant sunshine, countries and states must typically leverage financial resources to boost solar photovoltaic (PV) adoption. Germany and Japan are prime examples of countries that owe much of their solar success to relatively high GDPs you can find out more.

But one state continues to defy conventional wisdom, proving that neither sunshine nor economic might is a prerequisite for solar PV dominance. Despite its relatively small size and mid-Atlantic location, Maryland became America’s 8th largest solar market in 2012. In just one year, it installed more than 74 MW of utility scale, residential, and commercial PV capacity.

What makes Maryland’s achievement so remarkable is that it beat out obvious favorites like New Mexico and Texas — states renown for their year-round sunshine. In fact, Maryland even outshone Florida — the “Sunshine” State.

Even more remarkable, 2012 was a record-breaking year for the country’s solar industry. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, the nation installed more than 3,300 MW in 2012 — a 76% increase over 2011.

Securing the #8 slot in a slow year would have been impressive. Jerseys But that Maryland accomplished this during a time of unprecedented nationwide solar growth is nothing short of a miracle.

The Secret Behind Maryland’s Solar Boom

It’s actually not a secret. Maryland’s approach to renewable energy is both simple and effective:

Lacking the financial resources of larger states and the solar resources of sunnier ones, Maryland develops supportive green policies to encourage PV installations.

The state has some of the most generous renewable energy incentives in the country, providing its citizens with a range of local, state, and federal rebates to help bring the cost of new installations down.

Its Clean Energy Grant Program, alone, reduces the upfront cost by $1,000 for qualifying homeowners and businesses. There also exist any number of financing arrangements and tax credits to further drive down prices to make solar even more attractive. In addition, the average cost for solar PV panels in Maryland fell 33% from 2011 to 2012, making new systems that much more affordable for homeowners thinking about a solar panel installation in Baltimore, Annapolis and other markets.

Taken together, Maryland’s incentives, financing options, and increasingly low panel prices place the state on competitive footing with more traditional solar hotspots like California and Arizona.

If current trends continue, 2013 could be another banner year for the Chesapeake Bay State.