Environment America Research & Policy Center releases new comprehensive study on solar capacity in major U.S. cities

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Nation’s largest cities ranked; 50 major urban areas more than doubled their total installed capacity in last 7 years

Environment America Research & Policy Center

BOSTON — Fifty top American cities have each more than doubled their total installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity since 2013, a new study released today by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found. The report, Shining Cities 2020: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy, is the seventh annual edition of the most comprehensive survey of installed solar PV capacity in major U.S. cities. 

This year’s survey, which analyzed data through December 2019, found that cities are increasingly turning to solar to meet their energy needs.  In 2013, the first year of the study, eight of the cities surveyed had enough solar PV per capita to qualify as “Solar Stars” (cities with 50 or more watts of solar PV capacity installed per capita). In 2019, that number jumped to 26 cities. 

“Cities are leading the charge to install clean, renewable solar energy,” said acting Environment America Research & Policy Center President Wendy Wendlandt. “Mayors and local officials recognize the benefits that solar energy can offer their communities. Each year of our study we’ve found that more local leaders are pursuing solar projects and smart local policies to help their constituents tap the power of the sun.”

While the novel coronavirus pandemic has tremendously impacted the solar industry, these statistics both reflect how cities throughout the nation made a thorough commitment to this clean renewable energy source before COVID-19, and how essential it is to continue to push forward with solar energy despite the hurdles.

“With the continued growth in solar at risk in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, we must make smart policy choices in this space,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Now is the time  to build the future we need, which means supporting the clean clean energy sector through the pandemic and incentivising the broad deployment of clean energy technologies like solar at the federal level so we can advance a future powered entirely by renewable energy sources.”

The top five leaders per capita overall are: 1.Honolulu; 2. San Diego; 3. Albuquerque; 4. San Jose; and 5. Burlington. For total solar PV installed, the top five are: 1. Los Angeles; 2. San Diego; 3. Honolulu; 4. Phoenix; and 5. San Antonio.

“The city of Phoenix is well situated to harness our region’s abundant sunshine to power our daily lives and, in doing so, also invest in the long-term health and well-being of our community,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. ”Phoenix is leading the way and will continue to innovate to ensure our city remains a leader in sustainability.” 

“The City of San Diego continues to be a shining example for other cities to follow in the fight against climate change, with record solar installations and our push for 100 percent renewable energy citywide,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “Now, as we’re grappling with a pandemic that has had a devastating impact across the globe, it is more crucial than ever that climate action also drives our economy by creating jobs for the future, reducing energy costs for families and businesses, and building a more sustainable future for all.”

In addition to the overall rankings, regional leaders for solar capacity per capita were Honolulu in the Pacific region; Las Vegas in the Mountain region; Indianapolis in the North Central region; San Antonio in the South Central region; Jacksonville, Fla., in the South Atlantic region; and Burlington, Vt., in the Northeast region.

“Effective public policy can be as important as sunshine for cities looking to expand their solar capacity,” said Adrian Pforzheimer, report co-author and policy analyst at Frontier Group. “Cities can encourage solar in many ways, and a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy is often the strongest. These cities’ public policies are the driving force that sets them apart from their peers.”