First-of-its-kind report shows solar power’s growth in Philadelphia and other U.S. cities


Philadelphia – Today, PennEnvironment released “Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution,” a first-of-its-kind report that documents solar power’s recent dramatic increase in cities around the country and compares Philadelphia and other cities on their recent solar growth.

Currently ranked 22nd for installed solar capacity among the nation’s principal cities, Philadelphia is embarking on a major new push to ramp up solar. Last month Philadelphia City Council unanimously committed to a goal of 20,000 solar roofs by the year 2025, and is now working in conjunction with a diverse group of stakeholders and community leaders to roll out a set of policies that will get the city to that point.

“Cities are the focal point of this solar energy revolution, and thanks to City Council’s unanimous commitment to powering 20,000 homes with solar by 2025, we’re now ready to make Philadelphia the solar leader we know it can be,” said Elowyn Corby, PennEnvironment’s Global Warming & Clean Energy Associate.

PennEnvironment was joined by a number of city leaders and solar champions to release the report, including City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, City Councilman Bobby Henon, IBEW Business Manager John Dougherty, President of the Pennsylvania Solar Industries Association Ron Celentano, and Philadelphia Solar Schools Initiative student Quadeir Timms in front of IBEW Local 98’s extensive solar array.

“As the mother of a 17 year old daughter, I see public policy through the prism of her future,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Chair of Philadelphia City Council’s Committee on the Environment. “To the best of our ability, we must leave a cleaner, more sustainable planet for future generations. That requires setting ambitious goals, like producing enough solar energy to power 20,000 homes by 2025, and committing to do the necessary follow through. I look forward to working with a diverse group of stakeholders to make this goal a reality.”

The report found that there is more than 200 times as much solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed in the U.S. today as there was in 2002, much of that in America’s cities. In fact, the top 20 solar cities in this report have more solar power within their city limits than was installed in the entire U.S. just six years ago.

With the cost of solar coming down, growing awareness of the benefits of solar power is emerging as a mainstream energy solution with widespread benefits for our health, our economy and the environment.

“Pennsylvania Solar Energy Industries Association is glad to see this new report by Environment America, which covers the growth of solar PV capacity in American cities, and it’s great that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are on the map,” said Ron Celentano, President of the Pennsylvania Solar Energy Industries Association. “Up until now Germany has been in the forefront with having the largest cumulative total solar PV capacity in the world, but the US may have for the first time exceeded Germany’s annual growth of installed solar PV capacity in 2013. This only confirms that solar is on the rise in more American cities—and we’re very excited about that!”


The report highlighted the benefits of solar energy including:

  • Solar energy avoids pollution—Energy from the sun reduces air pollution that contributes to urban smog and global warming.
  • Solar energy protects consumers—With no fuel costs, solar can protect Philadelphians from the rising cost of fossil fuels. 
  • Solar energy grows the economy—Pennsylvania has 2,900 solar jobs, concentrated in manufacturing and installation. Installing more solar energy in cities creates good jobs at home, and demonstrates a commitment to the community’s future.

The report also detailed how Philadelphia can work to reach its new solar goal, by:

  • Adopting policies to advance solar power, including tax incentives, low interest loan programs, and programs to ensure solar readiness on new construction. 
  • Running “Solarize” programs that use bulk purchasing and educational campaigns to help neighbors “go solar” together.
  • Lighting the way forward by installing solar on government buildings and educating the public about the benefits of solar. 
  • Working with state government to boost renewable energy standards, increase solar carve-outs, and encourage net metering and community solar programs. 
  • Partnering with the Federal government to ensure that federal incentives such as tax credits are continued, and that federal programs continue to provide support for cities expanding solar.

“Our planet is dying basically by a flick of a light switch” said Quadeir Timms, Student in the Philadelphia Solar Schools Initiative. “As a student who is interested in working in the solar industry I am thankful that the City Council passed a resolution calling for more solar in Philly.”
“We’ve already made progress here in Philadelphia, but we’re just getting started,” said Corby. “By committing to a bold goal and putting strong policies in place, we can make Philadelphia shine as a national leader and reap the environmental and economic benefits of the solar revolution.” 

Read the report here.