Salt Lake City – Among the nation’s solar leaders, Salt Lake City ranks 14th for installed solar capacity per capita, according to a new analysis released today by Environment America Research & Policy Center.
“By using solar power in Salt Lake City, we can reduce pollution and improve public health for everyday Utahns,” said Bret Fanshaw with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “To realize these benefits, city leaders should continue to embrace a big vision for solar on rooftops throughout the community.”
The report, Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, ranks Salt Lake City ahead of cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco for amount of installed solar installed per capita. In particular, Salt Lake City has helped solar to grow through its SLCgreen programs and the city government’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy.
“Cities are recognizing that clean, local and affordable energy just makes sense,” said Abi Bradford with Frontier Group, report co-author. “For the fourth year in a row, our research shows that this is happening, not necessarily in cities with the most sun, but also in those with smart policies in place to support this shift.”
The figures in the report reflect the recent growth of solar across the country. The top 20 cities listed in the report have nearly as much solar today as the entire country had installed in 2010. In 2016, solar was the number one new source of energy installed in America. Google’s Project Sunroof recently noted that 71 percent of Salt Lake City’s rooftops could host solar panels.
The Solar Foundation just released new data showing there are 1,599 people employed in solar in the Salt Lake City metro area as of year-end 2016, a 38 percent increase from 2015.
The report comes as debate continues over the future of solar in Utah. Last fall, Rocky Mountain Power proposed cuts to the state’s key rooftop solar program, net metering, as well as additional charges and fees to solar customers. Governor Gary Herbert recently signed HB23, which phases out state tax credits for rooftop solar by 2021.
Cities can push solar forward in a number of ways, according to the report. Among the recommendations, cities can set a goal for solar usage, help residents finance solar power and put solar on government buildings.
The report also shows that while Salt Lake City is a solar leader, it currently only uses 5.4 percent of its solar potential, according to data from the US Department of Energy.
“Cities are big energy users with lots of unutilized roof space suitable for solar panels,” said Fanshaw. “Salt Lake City can continue leading the way and protect our environment by using as much of our solar potential as possible.”
Environment America Research & Policy Center is a statewide environmental organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.