A mounting body of data suggests that the solar power industry has begun to hit its stride within the United States. In 2013, a record-breaking number of panels were installed in the U.S. — a solar panel was installed panels installed every three minutes in 2013 — and that attitude towards sustainable energy has continued through 2015 with 1,383 megawatts of solar capacity installed in the United States. In part, this new approach to solar power is thanks to the degree of public concern generated about energy dependence and global warning. Easier application processes, government incentives, and technological developments have all contributed towards the adoption of a more environmentally friendly energy source.
Recently, a report on solar power in American cities by the Environment America Research & Policy Center introduced new information on which US cities are best for solar power in terms of per capita considerations, and overall solar capacity. According to this report, 20 cities are responsible for 6.5% of all of the American photovoltaic (PV) capacity, leaving plenty of room to expand.
Following are just some of the American cities most adept at harnessing solar power — and how they’re contributing to the shift towards sustainable energy.
On a “per capita” basis, Honolulu actually ranks first in regards to solar energy capacity, placing it alongside a number of other cities as a U.S. “solar star”: a city which produces more than 50 megawatts of solar energy per capita. What’s more, the state of Hawaii boasts the highest current rate of solar PV grid integration within the country, which may be partially due to the higher cost of electricity throughout the islands.
In Hawaii, solar energy has become a popular alternative to grid-energy, especially as the cost of solar equipment continues to drop, and other, more traditional concepts continue to grow more expensive. What’s more, the switch to solar power lines up with the state initiatives, which requires 40% of the islands electricity to be powered by renewable resources by 2030.
5. San Jose
San Jose has an even more dramatic goal than Hawaii when it comes to utilizing renewable energy. In fact, the city hopes to generate 100% of its electricity requirements through renewable sources by 2022 – making it a leading innovator within the country. Currently 5th for total solar PV, San Jose has 105 total solar PV installed, which is unsurprising considering the fact that there is an average of 257 sunny days per year in the city.
Another benefit for solar power in San Jose, is that it has begun to take steps towards decreasing the common costs associated with installing solar systems in the city. San Jose has even streamlined the application process to only one page of documentation for solar permits.
Fourth on the list for total solar PV rank, but second in Per Capita installation, Indianapolis has begun to make a mark on the solar industry in America. Currently, there are more than 68 solar companies at work within Indiana, and in 2014, the state installed 59MW of solar electric capacity for a ranking of 14th in the country. In the same year, Indiana invested an incredible $100 million towards solar installations.
Indianapolis offers plenty of incentives and government schemes to help people move towards solar power as an alternative to traditional energy sources.
Currently, the Phoenix Suns Stadium runs at least 25% on solar energy, thanks to the 18,000 square feet of solar panels installed in 2008. Since then, Phoenix has had a significant solar project in play, designed to take advantage of the abundant resources the city has access to, such as 306 days of sunshine per year, and only 8.4 inches of rain.
The total solar PV installed in Phoenix is 115, or 76 per Capita, and this is in part thanks to the fact that during the summer (June), the chance of a bright day in Phoenix is a reliable 95%. Even in December, the chances of a sun-filled day remain high, at 75%.
2. San Diego
Blessed with more than 260 days of sunshine every year, Southern California claims many top spots in regards to solar energy. The total solar PV installed in San Diego is 149, earning it the second spot for best solar powered cities in the U.S. What’s more, a number of innovations at play within the city has allowed for the delivery of great solar incentives for housing complexes, and even loans to help individuals install renewable energy systems.
The city of San Diego is well known as a solar leader, through efficiently connecting solar panels to the grid, providing permits, and making the acquisition of solar power easier for residents.
1. Los Angeles
An abundant amount of sunshine has helped to showcase Los Angeles as one of the brightest and best markets for residential solar power. According to Mayor Eric Garcetti: “Los Angeles is blessed with abundant sunshine and with the most solar power in the country”. The total solar PV installed in L.A. is 170, while the per capita solar PV installed is only 44, meaning that the city ranks much lower in terms of per capita solar power.
Still, just as L.A. took the lead with air quality efforts over the last decade, it has now stormed ahead of other cities when it comes to getting solar panels on roofs, and cutting pollution from additional energy sources. With so much sunshine falling into L.A.’s lap, it’s no wonder the city has taken the top spot.