Los Angeles continues to lead the nation’s cities in total installed solar power capacity, but Honolulu far surpasses any other competitor in power generated per capita, according to a new report.
Solar power is growing rapidly in the United States, which now has a total of 121.4 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity – enough to power more than 23 million homes, according to the eighth edition of the Shining Cities survey. , published by the California Environment Research & Policy Center.
The amount of solar power installed in just nine US cities now exceeds the total amount installed nationwide a decade ago, according to the report. And of the 56 cities included – the same 56 “largest cities” surveyed in all eight editions of the survey – 15 demonstrated a tenfold increase in solar capacity between 2014 and 2022.
“The City of Angels has once again won the title of America’s Top Solar Superstar,” Laura Deehan, state director of the Environment California Research & Policy Center, said in a statement. “As Earth Day approaches, I’m struck by how far we’ve come in harnessing the immense power of the sun since this environmental holiday began in 1970. LA’s leadership in environmental Solar energy to date means a cleaner environment, a healthier community and a more resilient future.”
Looking at which municipalities have the most total installed capacity and which have the most solar PV panels installed per capita, the report’s authors said they seek to explore where renewable solar energy has grown fastest and in which measure.
In terms of total installed solar capacity, Los Angeles led by far, as it did from 2014-2015 and 2017-2020, taking second place behind San Diego for just one year in 2016. Total installed capacity Los Angeles is 649.9 megawatts, followed by San Diego at 468.0, Las Vegas at 442.8, Honolulu at 397.8 and San Antonio at 354.9.
New York came in sixth place, at 354.4 megawatts, followed by Phoenix at 342.0, San Jose at 290.9, Albuquerque at 166.8 and Washington, DC, at 140.2.
A separate chart that ranked cities by solar power output per capita – dubbed “Solar Superstars” – revealed a much different reality, however.
Honolulu, at 1,133.5 watts per person, generates nearly twice as much solar power per capita as its nearest competitor: Las Vegas, which produces 689.9 watts per person, according to the report. San Diego came next with 337.4 watts per person, followed by Albuquerque with 295.5 and San Jose with 287.1.
In sixth place was San Antonio, with 247.4 watts per person, followed by Burlington, Vt., at 222.9, New Orleans at 218.0, Phoenix at 212.7 and Washington, DC at 203.3.
To compare the cities, the authors said they collected data from municipal and investor-owned utilities, city and state government agencies, regional power grid operators and nonprofit organizations.
Californian cities do particularly well in the total installed capacity and solar energy per capita categories.
Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento, San Francisco and Riverside all ranked in the top 20 cities in the nation for installed capacity, and except for San Francisco, they were also all in the top 20 for installed capacity. solar energy per capita.
Martin Adams, general manager and chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, recognized solar power as “a key part” of the utility’s renewable energy goals.
“Our city’s national recognition as America’s #1 solar city in solar rooftop capacity is a testament to the Department’s efforts to continually improve and streamline our programs to help ease Angelenos’ transition to solar,” said Adams. in a press release. “We applaud the diverse and vibrant communities we serve for embracing and participating in our solar programs; they fuel our progress towards a more sustainable future.
But looking beyond the 56 largest U.S. cities surveyed for the annual report, the authors found that several smaller California cities fared even better.
Fresno, Calif., has the most solar power per capita of any city in the state, while Bakersfield comes in second, surpassing both San Diego and San Jose in third and fourth place.
While the Shining Cities report highlighted the solar success stories of cities across the country, it also identified the “huge untapped solar power potential” in many cities across the country, particularly on their rooftops. Large cities, the authors explained, could develop more large-scale solar installations above parking lots and on open land.
Much of the country’s successes – and setbacks – to which the authors attributed were the policies of the state government and the Public Utilities Commission, which they say ‘can be as important as abundant sunshine’. . The best policies, they say, are those that “ensure fair value for the energy that rooftop solar feeds back into the grid.”
The policies the authors specifically referred to are called “net metering,” or reimbursements that rooftop solar customers receive for the excess electricity they generate.
Proposals to reduce net metering reimbursements have recently gained traction in several states, including California and Florida, with support from state utilities but fierce opposition from environmental groups like Environment California, the authors of the Shining Cities report.
Such policies, according to the authors, could “slow the growth of solar energy across the country. But lawmakers and utilities in favor of such cuts argue that current rules force those who can’t afford solar installations to bear higher electricity costs on behalf of wealthier neighbors.
However, according to the report’s authors, fossil fuel companies and some utilities are simply “threatened by the advancement of solar power and seeking to reduce support for solar power.”
“In some cases, these interests have secured changes in solar policies that have significantly changed the trajectory of solar deployment in the cities profiled in this report,” they added.