Solar power more than doubled in most major U.S. cities over past six years, report finds

Over the past six years, solar energy capacity more than doubled in 45 of America’s 57 largest cities, according to a new study released yesterday by Environment America Research & Policy Center. The report, Shining Cities 2019: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy, is the sixth annual edition of the most comprehensive survey of installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in major U.S. cities.

Highlights

  • Honolulu leads the United States for solar power per person among cities surveyed, followed by San Diego, San Jose and Burlington, Vermont.
  • One-third of the 57 cities surveyed in all six editions of this report more than quadrupled their installed solar PV capacity from 2013 to 2018.
  • Los Angeles leads the nation in total installed solar PV capacity among the 69 cities surveyed in this report; as it did from 2013 to 2015 and in 2017, after briefly being topped by San Diego in 2016. Since 2016, Los Angeles has added over 150 MW of solar capacity.
  • Leading solar cities can be found in every region of the country. Leaders in per capita solar capacity by census region include Honolulu in the Pacific region; Las Vegas in the Mountain region; Indianapolis in the North Central region; San Antonio in the South Central region; Washington, D.C., in the South Atlantic region; and Burlington, Vermont, in the Northeast region.

Along with the vast majority of cities that showed marked growth in solar capacity, a select group made even greater strides in going solar between 2013 and 2018, the report finds. One-third of the cities surveyed in all of the report’s editions more than quadrupled their installed solar PV capacity over that period.

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 23 cities have earned the title.

© Environment America Research & Policy Center

Beyond the historical analysis, the 2018 report expanded to include 69 major U.S. cities. The newest numbers show that Honolulu rates No. 1 for solar energy installed per resident. This performance from Hawaii’s capital reflects strong state and local commitments to tackle climate change. In 2015, the Aloha State committed to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

Table ES-1. The “Solar Stars” (Cities with 50 or More Watts of Solar PV per Person, End of 2018)

Per Capita RankCityStatePer Capita Solar PV Installed (Watts-DC/person)ǂChange in Per Capita Rank 2017 to 2018Total Solar PV Installed (MW-DC)Total Solar PV Rank
1HonoluluHI646.40226.54
2San DiegoCA247.50351.42
3San JoseCA194.90201.75
4BurlingtonVT187.3+17.937
5Las VegasNV162.2+1104.19
6PhoenixAZ145.3+1236.23
7IndianapolisIN143.5-3123.88
8RiversideCA138.3+145.316
9DenverCO129.6-191.410
10AlbuquerqueNM128.9+272.011
11Salt Lake CityUT126.9-125.521
12San AntonioTX123.6-1186.97
13New OrleansLA107.3042.218
14Los AngelesCA105.0+1419.91
15WashingtonDC91.7+263.612
16NewarkNJ88.6025.322
17Sacramento*CA84.4-342.317
18CharlestonSC75.5N/A10.234
19JacksonvilleFL62.1+255.413
20San FranciscoCA57.8-251.114
21BostonMA54.6-237.419
22Austin*TX53.2+150.615
23HartfordCT50.1+46.242

ǂ Throughout the report, includes all solar PV capacity (rooftop and utility-scale solar installations) within the city limits of each city. Does not include solar power installed in the extraterritorial jurisdictions of cities, even those installed by or under contract to municipal utilities. See Methodology for an explanation of how these rankings were calculated. See Appendix B for city-specific sources of data.
* Due to an improvement in methodology or data sourcing for this city, total and per capita solar PV capacity reported in this table are not directly comparable with estimates for this city in previous editions of this report. See Appendix B for details on specific cities.

When it comes to overall solar power capacity, Los Angeles remains the leader for the second year in a row, after ceding the top spot to San Diego two years ago. L.A. has taken this spot in five of the six years of the survey.

Table ES-2. Top 20 Shining Cities by Total Installed Solar PV Capacity, End of 2018

Total Solar PV RankCityStateTotal Solar PV Installed (MW-DC)Rooftop Solar PV Potential on Small Buildings (MW)ǂPer Capita RankPer Capita Solar PV Installed (Watts-DC/person)
1Los AngelesCA419.95,44414105.0
2San DiegoCA351.42,2192247.5
3PhoenixAZ236.22,9816145.3
4HonoluluHI226.5N/A1646.4
5San JoseCA201.71,6393194.9
6New YorkNY200.01,2773623.2
7San AntonioTX186.93,72112123.6
8IndianapolisIN123.8N/A7143.5
9Las VegasNV104.19465162.2
10DenverCO91.46779129.6
11AlbuquerqueNM72.01,25210128.9
12WashingtonDC63.63441591.7
13JacksonvilleFL55.41,7151962.1
14San FranciscoCA51.16722057.8
15Austin*TX50.61,4432253.2
16RiversideCA45.36128138.3
17Sacramento*CA42.37771784.4
18New OrleansLA42.21,27713107.3
19BostonMA37.43412154.6
20PortlandOR31.21,3972448.2

ǂ Reflects the maximum technical solar PV capacity that could be installed on appropriate small building rooftops in each city. These figures were calculated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE): U.S. DOE, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy State & Local Energy Data, available at apps1.eere.energy.gov/sled/#. Data were unavailable for cities with “N/A” listed.

* Due to an improvement in methodology or data source for this city, total and per capita solar PV capacity reported in this table are not directly comparable with estimates for this city in previous editions of this report. See Appendix B for details on specific cities.

In addition to the overall rankings, regional leaders for solar capacity per capita were Burlington, Vt. in the Northeast; Washington, D.C. in the South Atlantic; San Antonio in the South Central region; Indianapolis in the North Central region; Las Vegas in the Mountain region and Honolulu in the Pacific region.

Bret Fanshaw, “Go Solar Campaign” Director with Environment America Research & Policy Center said:

“Cities are rapidly adopting solar energy and driving the renewable energy transition across the country, bringing pollution-free power to our homes, schools and workplaces .We applaud the leadership shown by many cities and invite even more to let the sunshine in.”

 

Abigail Bradford, report co-author and policy analyst at Frontier Group said:

“The difference between cities leading on solar energy and those that are lagging is effective public policy – at the state and local level. A dozen cities in our report have made commitments to use 100 percent renewable energy and many more have programs and policies that encourage residents to install solar panels.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell siad:

“As mayor, I am proud that Honolulu continues to lead the nation with the highest solar PV capacity per capita. O‘ahu residents are making great use of one of our most abundant resources, the beautiful Hawaiian sunshine. As more residents install rooftop solar to power their homes, heat their water, and lower their energy costs, our city moves closer to achieving the goal of decarbonizing our economy.”


Source:  Press Release by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).