New Report: San Diego Ranks 2nd Nationally Among Major Cities for Installed Solar

Media Contacts

Environment California Research & Policy Center

San Diego – Today, Environment California Research & Policy Center was joined at the solarized Mission Bay Aquatic Center by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and local renewable energy advocates and industry leaders to release a new report: “Shining Cities:  At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution.” The report ranks San Diego second in the nation for the amount of solar installed and fourth for per capita solar installations, and provides a first-of-its-kind comparative look at the growth of solar in major American cities (see Top 20 list below).

“Solar power is booming across the country and cities are at the forefront,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate at Environment California.  “As one of the top ranking cities, San Diego is leading the way.” 

With the cost of solar coming down, there’s growing awareness of solar power as a mainstream energy solution with widespread benefits for our health, our economy and the environment. 

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city has been aggressively pushing forward on solar-energy initiatives for years and hopes to expand on those efforts in the future.

“As a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs, solar energy can help us to meet many of our city’s environmental and economic goals,” Faulconer said. “It makes perfect sense for San Diego, one of the sunniest cities in the country, to lead the way in solar energy.”

The report highlighted the benefits of solar energy, including: 

Solar energy avoids pollution—Pollution-free energy from the sun reduces air pollution that contributes to urban smog and global warming.  It also helps save the massive amount of water that’s normally consumed during the cooling of fossil-fuel-burning power plants.

Solar energy protects consumers—Since solar has no fuel costs, it can protect us from the rising cost of fossil fuels.

Solar energy helps the economy—California has over 47,000 solar jobs, accounting for approximately one-third of all solar jobs in the country.

The top 20 solar cities in this report have more solar power within their city limits than was installed in the entire U.S. just six years ago.

“The collaboration, entrepreneurship and vision that underpin San Diego’s solar successes are fundamental for achieving California’s renewable energy goals and greenhouse gas emission reductions,” said Len Hering, RADM, USN (ret), California Center for Sustainable Energy executive director. “More solar power means more jobs and a better environment – two wins for our region.”

The report pointed to policies that encourage investment in solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, which have been adopted by local leaders in solar cities:

  • City leaders can set ambitious and achievable goals and citizens and businesses can work with local governments to meet them.  Cities can lead by example by putting solar on public buildings.
  • Cities can adopt policies to advance solar power in their communities, including tax incentives, low-interest loan programs and solar-friendly zoning and building codes.  Cities can also run “Solarize” programs that use bulk purchasing and educational campaigns to help neighbors “go solar” together.
  • City leaders can work with state governments to ensure that they have strong programs to expand solar, including renewable portfolio standards, solar carve-outs or feed-in tariffs, net metering and community solar programs.
  • City leaders can also demand a strong partnership with the federal government to ensure that federal incentives such as tax credits are continued.  And, that federal programs, such as the Solar America’s Cities and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant programs continue to provide support and technical assistance to cities seeking to expand solar.


“San Diego’s visionary leaders have spurred the growth of solar in our region,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power, “The city’s proposed Climate Action Plan calls for 100 percent renewable energy by 2035,  which will stimulate the local economy and create more green jobs.”


Over the past ten years, San Diego-based Sullivan Solar Power has increased in size by 50 percent each year and now employs 106 local residents.


“Solar energy is renewable and clean, which is why I’m such an advocate for its role in our national energy portfolio,” Congressman Scott Peters said. “The solar industry is creating jobs, including more than 675 in my district alone, and powering our economy toward a more sustainable future. I’m proud that San Diego and California are leading the way as an example for the rest of the country.”


“California cities are leaders in creating solar energy capacity,” said Senator Marty Block (SD-39). “Of the top 20 American cities listed for this clean and safe energy alternative, California has five cities ranked in the top 12 – Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento. It’s leadership that means a cleaner environment, better jobs and a stronger economy. I applaud the cities for their foresight and commitment.”


According to Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, “California’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative made it possible for cities like San Diego to lead the country in solar power. State and federal rebates combined with pro-solar policies adopted at the city-level have made it possible for tens of thousands of San Diegans to save money and go green.”

The Mission Bay Aquatic Center, which hosted today’s report release, has earned the highest green building certification, obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance. It is the first building to achieve this certification in the California State University system and the first commercial building in San Diego to achieve net-zero consumption, for which its 41,000-watt solar PV system, installed by Sullivan Solar Power, was instrumental.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy.  San Diego is a shining example of solar leadership,” said Kinman. “But, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential to capture this pollution-free energy source.   By committing to bold goals and expanding on the good policies we’ve adopted, we can take solar to the next level.”  


Environment California Research & Policy Center is a statewide nonprofit environmental advocacy organization working to protect California’s air, water and open spaces. More information, including copies of today’s report, can be found at

[1] This includes all solar PV capacity (rooftop and utility-scale solar installations) within the city limits of each city.