Des Moines lags behind in solar power among major U.S cities, new report reveals

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While Des Moines lags behind, nationwide solar capacity booms

Environment Iowa

Des Moines lagged behind its peers in installing solar power in the last year, ranking 61st nationwide for solar energy capacity per capita. The results come from the seventh edition of Shining Cities:The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy, a new report released today by Environment Iowa Research & Policy Center. It is the most comprehensive survey available of installed solar capacity in major U.S. cities.

“While Des Moines’s progress has been slower than its peers when it comes to solar energy, there is still a vast potential for us to unlock the power of the sun,” said Rishi Shah, Campaign Organizer with Environment Iowa Research & Policy Center. “Iowa’s net metering policy, one of the best in the nation, shows us that we can improve, but it’s time to pick up the pace. Though solar installations are largely on pause due to COVID-19, Des Moines has a chance to build out a clean and affordable energy future coming out of the crisis.”

“Iowa is ranked 16th in the U.S. for solar potential and solar is a great complement to Iowa’s already-strong wind development. With the legislature’s passage of good net metering legislation in 2020 we also see the home and business solar market set for continued strong growth,” said Kerri Johannsen, Energy Program Director at the Iowa Environmental Council.

Beyond the findings in Iowa, the report examined national solar power in major cities over the past seven years. The analysis found that of the 57 cities surveyed in all seven editions of this report, almost 90 percent more than doubled their total installed solar PV capacity between 2013 and 2019.

Overall, this year’s Shining Cities survey ranked 70 of America’s major cities by solar energy capacity. Honolulu placed first overall for solar energy capacity per capita, while Los Angeles finished No. 1 in total solar energy capacity installed. Leaders in per capita solar capacity region 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.

These numbers show tremendous progress, but the continued implementation of key policies, like those outlined in Environment Iowa Research & Policy Center’s Renewables on the Rise report will be critical to keep clean energy growing.

“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,” finished Shah. “That means taking steps to build the future we need, by investing in infrastructure that advances a future powered entirely by renewable energy sources.”


Environment Iowa works for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the state put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment Iowa is part of Environment America, a national network of 29 state environmental groups.