Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center
Solar power is expanding rapidly. The United States now has 77.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed – more than enough to power one in every 10 homes in America. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have invested in solar energy and millions more are ready to join them.
America’s major cities have played a key role in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap tremendous benefits from solar energy. As population centers, they are major sources of electricity demand and, with millions of rooftops suitable for solar panels, they have the potential to be major sources of clean energy production as well.
Our seventh annual survey of solar energy in America’s biggest cities finds that the amount of solar power installed in just seven U.S. cities exceeds the amount installed in the entire United States at the end of 2010.2 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.
To continue America’s progress toward renewable energy, cities, states and the federal government should adopt strong policies to make it easy for homeowners, businesses and utilities to “go solar.”
The cities with the most solar PV installed per resident are the “Solar Stars” – cities with 50 or more watts of solar PV capacity installed per capita. In 2013, only eight of the cities surveyed for this report had enough solar PV per capita to be ranked as “Solar Stars,” but now 26 cities have earned the title.
Many smaller cities and towns are also going big on solar energy. Asheville, North Carolina has 89.5 watts of solar capacity installed per person, enough to be ranked a “solar star.”
Fossil fuel interests and some utilities are working to slow the growth of distributed solar energy. U.S. cities have only begun to tap their solar energy potential. To take advantage of the nation’s vast solar energy potential and move America toward 100 percent renewable energy, city, state and federal governments should adopt a series of strong pro-solar policies.