Environment America Research & Policy Center
Boston, MA — Sixty-four major American cities are now home to almost as much solar capacity as the entire country had installed at the end of 2010, according to a new analysis that ranks America’s major cities for their solar power.
“Thanks to forward-thinking policies and the vision of local government leaders,” said Bret Fanshaw, Solar Program coordinator with Environment America and report co-author, “these cities really shine when it comes to solar power.”
Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix topped the list for most solar power in the Environment America Research & Policy Center study, Shining Cities 2016: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America.
Co-authored with the Frontier Group, the report shows Honolulu, Indianapolis, and San Jose have the most solar panels per capita. Cities outside the nation’s Sun Belt ranked in the top 20 for include Newark, N.J., New York, and the District of Columbia.
Plummeting costs, environmental concerns, and technological innovation have all played a role in spurring the growth of solar energy, which last year was enough to power 5.4 million American homes.
The report found cities at the vanguard of the nation’s solar boom, with the top 20 solar cities – representing just 0.1 percent of U.S. land area – accounting for 6 percent of U.S. solar photovoltaic capacity at the end of 2015.
Cities can lead on solar
As population centers, cities are home to ample rooftop space and large electricity markets. Through power purchase agreements, promoting community solar programs, and installing solar on government property, city governments can play a leading role in developing solar energy.
“The cities that are adding solar power the fastest are those that have made it a policy priority,” said Kim Norman, policy analyst at the Frontier Group and report co-author. “This report shows that government is a key player in the effort to repower the U.S. with renewable energy.”
While solar power is soaring, utility companies are campaigning intensely to increase fees for rooftop solar, which they see as a direct threat to their business model.
The U.S. Supreme Court has also stalled the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration initiative to cap carbon pollution from power plants and provide incentives for clean energy like solar.
Environment America praised the cities leading the way on solar in spite of these attacks. Along with its state affiliates, the organization partnered with mayors around the country to release the findings of Shining Cities 2016.
What mayors are saying
“We are putting LA’s famous sunshine to work,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We are proud to rank number 1 in installed solar capacity for the third year running, and through our Sustainable City Plan we will move even farther and faster to fight climate change and create local green jobs.”
“San Diego continues to lead the way in solar energy and remains a shining example to other cities when it comes to improving our environment through innovation,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “Increasing solar energy will help reach our goal of 100 percent renewable energy use in the city by 2035 – a key element of San Diego’s landmark Climate Action Plan.”
“Honolulu continues to move forward toward a clean, sustainable energy future and we are honored to be recognized by Environment America again for the city’s efforts to expand solar at municipal facilities,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “Last year we successfully completed PV installation at our Kapolei Corporation Yard, which will reduce oil consumption and save taxpayers money over time on energy costs. This year we will are designing systems at four more corporation yards and at our H-POWER waste-to-energy plant, and this is just the beginning.”
“Dallas is happy to be recognized as a ‘Solar Builder,’” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “As energy demands increase, Dallas and other communities nationwide will be exploring ways to build resiliency into our infrastructure. Solar, a steady and evolving technology, can help Dallas ensure that future events do not impact our safety and security in the years to come.”
San Antonio Mayor Ivy R. Taylor said, “San Antonio has long been a leader in renewable energy and I am pleased with the recognition that the city and our municipal utility continue to innovate in this growing and essential field.”