Shining Cities 2017

Which U.S. cities have the most solar energy installed and why

A Report By Frontier Group and Environment America Reseach & Policy Center
Download the report as a PDF.
Solar power is an American success story. The past year saw our one-millionth solar installation, as cities across the country made huge gains in solar capacity. In 2016, just 20 cities accounted for as much solar power capacity as the entire country had installed in 2010. But even our top solar cities still have vast amounts of untapped solar potential.

Cities And Communities Can Lead The Way

America’s major cities play a key role in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap tremendous benefits from solar energy. 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 as well.

Cities helped solar power grow at a record-breaking pace in 2016

The United States now has 42 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy capacity, enough to power 8.3 million homes and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 52.3 million metric tons annually.

Even top solar cities still have vast amounts of untapped solar energy potential

San Diego has developed less than 16 percent of its technical potential for solar energy on small buildings.

Top U.S. cities for solar
America’s top solar cities have adopted strong pro-solar public policies and taken other important steps to advance solar energy

Leading by example: The city government of Las Vegas now receives 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources, including a total of 6.2 MW of solar electric capacity. Solar energy systems are installed on 40 public buildings, including community centers, fire stations and parks. A 3.3 MW solar plant also provides power for the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Cities that invest in solar power on public buildings not only save money on electricity, but they also demonstrate the value of solar energy to their residents.

U.S. cities have only begun to tap their solar energy potential.

Cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Antonio have the technical potential to generate tens to hundreds of times more solar energy than they currently do, according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analysis of technical rooftop solar potential on small buildings.

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Contact: Rob Sargent
Environment America Energy Program Director
(617) 747-4317

Contact: Bret Fanshaw
Environment America Solar Energy Coordinator
(602) 252-9225


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Solar power is surging ahead at a record-breaking pace, and America’s cities are playing a key role in the clean energy revolution. But even the greenest cities still have vast amounts of untapped solar potential.

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