This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


What Are the Best Solar Cities in America?

This piece was originally published on PV Solar Report.
What's the Top Solar City?
Shining Cities Report

The new Shining Cities report by Environment Massachusetts ranks major U.S. cities by installed solar capacity as well as per-capita solar. Some of the results may surprise you.

Who’s the most solar of them all? When it comes to U.S. cities, more than one can lay claim to the title, depending on how you slice it. Yesterday’s release of a report on solar cities had several municipalities proudly proclaiming their solar contributions.

The truth is, the more solar we install in our cities, the more we all win. But if a little healthy competition spurs more solar development, then we’re all for it.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 3.33.17 PM

The Environment Massachusetts report Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution, ranked 57 U.S. cities based on both installed capacity and per capita solar.

The findings? The top 5 cities by total installed capacity are Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, San Jose, and Honolulu. Sure, those are all in sunny areas. Yet the fact that cities like Indianapolis, Portland, and Boston show up in the top 20 once again shows that policy can trump sunshine as a solar resource.


That’s also evident in the report’s look at some smaller cities that have “taken noteworthy steps to promote the growth of solar power” by adopting favorable policies. This is an especially inspiring section of the report, because it shows just how much can be done at the local level when cities decide to take action.

Other inspiring facts: There’s over 200 times as much solar PV capacity installed in the U.S. today than in 2002, and much of that has been installed in cities. The top 20 cities account for 7% of the country’s installed PV solar, though they represent only 0.1% of the land area.

For those promoting local power generation over remote solar farms, this is good news. With so many pluses to local generation and ownership — like local jobs and other economic benefits, plus minimizing the need for new transmission lines — it’s refreshing to see so much solar being sited in urban areas.

What helps promote solar in cities? The report found that these factors are crucial:

  • Commitment from local governments, which includes installing power on city buildings and setting “ambitious but achievable targets” for solar energy.

  • Support from city policies and programs that promote solar power. These include local lending for solar projects, predictable and accessible tax incentives, solar-friendly permitting policies and building codes, group purchasing programs, and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing.

  • Partnership with local utilities, which can set renewable energy goals and offer attractive financial incentives for solar projects.

  • Strong state-level policies like renewables portfolio standards and net metering, including virtual net metering to facilitate shared solar projects.

  • Support and funding from federal programs like the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative, which provide support for local solar growth plus valuable technical assistance.

The post What Are the Best Solar Cities in America? appeared first on The Blog.

Rosana Francescato's picture

Thank Rosana for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.


Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 1, 2014 5:44 am GMT

“…the more solar we install in our cities, the more we all win.” 

Well no, it really depends on each city’s climate.

“… the fact that cities like Indianapolis, Portland, and Boston show up in the top 20 once again…”

The fact that these cloudy cities are installing lots of solar means that they are in denial about what it really means to care about the environment.  These cities will never be free of fossil fuel until they let go of the erroneous notion that only local solar or only local renewable energy can be good for the environment and be part of our clean energy future.

It will take really optimistic reductions in the cost of energy storage to allow sunny regions to use solar energy in a grid that is not mostly fossil fuel powered.  No conceivable breakthroughs will allow cloudy towns to achieve this feat.  They are effectively ignoring real solutions like nuclear power and long-distance renewables and indulging in a fantasy that will only prolong their addiction to fossil fuels.

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on May 1, 2014 8:28 am GMT

Indeed. And the AGEE stat in Germany provides all the data required to underpin this.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »