Seattle Lags Behind Portland on Solar, But Sees Opportunity for Growth

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Sarah Lukins

Solar Was Number One New Source of Energy Installed in America in 2016

Environment Washington Research and Policy Center

Seattle, WA – Seattle lags behind other American cities on installed solar power, according to a new ranking released today by Environment Washington Research & Policy Center. Seattle ranked 24th in total solar photovoltaic installed, and 32nd in per capita solar PV installed.

“By using solar power here in Seattle, we can increase our climate resilience, reduce pollution and improve public health for everyday Washingtonians,” said Bruce Speight with Environment Washington. “To realize these benefits, city leaders should embrace a big vision for solar on rooftops throughout the community.”

The report, Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, has Seattle falling behind cities like Portland, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Newark for amount of installed solar. Portland, OR has nearly double the installed solar of Seattle; Portland ranked in the top 20 of all American cities for total solar PV and per capita solar PV installed.

“Seattle needs to step up its game on solar,” said Patrick Mazza with 350 Seattle. “Seattle City Light’s own climate resilience plan predicts that global warming impacts will threaten our hydroelectric power supply by 2030, and points to solar as a way to reduce those risks. Even in 2015, wildfire shut down power transmission from the North Cascades dams. We need solar in the city.”

The figures in the report reflect the recent growth of solar across the country. The top 20 cities listed in the report have nearly as much solar today as the entire country had installed in 2010. In 2016, solar was the number one new source of energy installed in America.

The Solar Foundation just released new data showing there are 2,657 people employed in solar in Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Statistical Area, a 71 percent increase from 2015.

Despite that growth, challenges remain for the solar industry in Washington. The solar jobs bill – HB 1048, a bill that would extend Washington’s solar incentive program – has languished in the legislature for the past couple years. This program has contributed to the 13,000 homes and businesses in Washington State that have installed solar and the 3,700 solar jobs in the state. The bill’s prospects this year are uncertain. Without extending this program, Seattle, and Washington State generally, risk falling behind even more and missing out on the creation of solar jobs going forward.

“Solar is already supporting thousands of jobs in Washington, and our solar program has been enormously successful, but now it’s at capacity, and those jobs are in danger of going away,” added Bonnie Frye Hemphill, campaign director, Keep WA Solar Strong. “Right now, legislators have the opportunity to update Washington’s solar program with the Solar Jobs Bill, creating thousands more solar jobs and allowing more home- and business-owners across our state have the chance to own their power.”

Cities can push solar forward in a number of ways, according to the report. Among the recommendations, cities can set a goal for solar usage, help residents finance solar power and put solar on government buildings.

“Cities are big energy users with lots of unutilized roof space suitable for solar panels,” said Speight. “Seattle could lead the way and protect our environment by using as much of our solar potential as possible.”


Environment Washington Research & Policy Center is a statewide environmental organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.