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California Leads Nation in Solar Power

SACRAMENTO (CN) - California used more solar power in 2014 than all other states combined, and became the first to get more than 5 percent of its energy from utility-scale solar power, according to a federal study released Tuesday.

California power plants more than doubled their output in 2014 from the previous year, producing 9.9 million megawatt hours of solar energy - more than every other state combined - according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Nevada and Arizona followed, getting 2.8 percent of their energy from large-scale solar power plants.

California took advantage of its plentiful sunshine and its state-promoted solar energy expansion. Last year two of the largest photovoltaic plants in the world opened in Southern California and by 2020 the state aims to produce a third of its energy from renewable sources.

Gov. Jerry Brown's and the Legislature's mandate to increase renewable energy production coincides with California's historic drought.

While large-scale solar energy production increased in 2014, the drought caused hydroelectric energy generation to fall by 46 percent compared to the previous five-year average.

Combined with increases in wind power and geothermal energy production, California earned the title of top nonhydroelectric renewable energy producer, ahead of Texas.

Prominent businesses are investing in California's solar-friendly climate, including Google and Solar City. Solar City is valued at nearly $5 billion and is headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, while Google helped fund Ivanpah, a solar power facility in the Mojave Desert.

The future of solar power looks bright and could be the world's main energy source by 2050, according to a report from the International Energy Agency. Last week France introduced a law that new commercial buildings must be fitted with solar energy panels or have their roofs covered with plants.

The United States is primed for solar expansion, though last year 36 states generated zero meaningful solar production. The federal government provides a solar investment tax credit to residential and commercial buildings fitted with solar energy systems. The program runs through 2016.

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