PA cities lag behind other major U.S cities in solar power, new report reveals

Media Contacts
Kelly Flanigan

Pittsburgh, Philadelphia rank 46th and 50th out of 70 for total solar capacity

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

[Philadelphia, PA] – Pennsylvania’s largest cities lagged behind other U.S. cities in installing solar power in the last year. Pittsburgh ranked 46th and Philadelphia ranked 50th 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 PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. It is the most comprehensive survey available of installed solar capacity in major U.S. cities.

“While Pennsylvania’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 Kelly Flanigan, Global Warming Solutions Associate with PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “Progress like the solar installation at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and the Mill 19 solar array in Pittsburgh show us that we can improve, but it’s time to pick up the pace. Though solar installations are largely on pause due to COVID19, Pennsylvania has a chance to build out a clean and affordable energy future coming out of the crisis.”

Beyond the findings in Pennsylvania’s two largest metropolitan areas, 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. Pittsburgh has seen a solar boom over that time period, with nearly quadruple the amount of solar in 2019 compared to 2013. Yet Philadelphia has only increased solar capacity by about 80% over that time period. 

“More solar energy means cleaner air, good-paying jobs and local economic growth. By lagging behind on solar adoption, Pennsylvanian cities are missing an excellent opportunity to create this long-term prosperity. We urge Pennsylvania legislators to adopt policies that get the Keystone state to the clean energy future Pennsylvanians deserve. Smart solar policies will bolster economic recovery efforts in response to COVID-19 and reduce the harm of future health, economic and climate disasters” said Pari Kasotia, Mid-Atlantic Director for the non-profit group Vote Solar.

“Solar energy is a huge economic development opportunity in the wake of the COVID pandemic,” said Sharon Pillar, Founder and Director of Pennsylvania Solar Center. “By increasing our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) from the current 0.5% solar requirement to 10%, we would create upwards of 65,000 jobs in the next 10 years, attract billions of dollars in private investment and increase local and state revenues.”

This year’s Shining Cities survey ranked 70 of America’s major cities by solar energy capacity within their municipal boundaries. Honolulu placed first overall for solar energy capacity per capita, while Los Angeles finished No. 1 in total solar energy capacity installed. 

Ron Celentano, President of the PA Solar Energy Industries Association noted: “It is fantastic to see the leaps and bounds of growing solar energy penetration in so many cities in the nation. Unfortunately, this list doesn’t include Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as indicated in this report.  Considering that by the end of 2019, the city of Los Angeles alone had more solar PV capacity (484 MW) than the entire state of Pennsylvania (426 MW), is telling.”

“This is an excellent report, but frankly just confirms once again that Pennsylvania is getting left in the dust as our neighboring states leap past us into the rapidly emerging clean energy economy,” said Liz Robinson, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Solar Energy Association. “Philly and Pittsburgh have made tremendous strides, but cities cannot do it alone. The state of Pennsylvania must enact statewide policies like the expansion of the Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and Community Solar to ensure we get to 10% solar by 2030.“

These numbers show tremendous progress, but the continued implementation of key policies, like those outlined in PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s Renewables on the Rise 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,” said Flanigan. “That means taking steps to build the future we need, by investing in infrastructure that advances a future powered entirely by renewable energy sources.”


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