Solar Energy Capacity in U.S. Cities Has Doubled in the Last 6 Years

Solar panels on a senior housing facility in Boulder, Colorado.

Solar panels on a senior housing facility in Boulder, Colorado. Dennis Schroeder / NREL

Solar power capacity has more than doubled in 45 of America’s 57 largest cities over the past six years, according to a recent report by the non-profit Environment America Research & Policy Center. And one-third of U.S. cities as much as quadrupled their photovoltaic capacity, including New York City, Seattle, and Dallas.

“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,” Bret Fanshaw, Go Solar campaign director with Environment America, said in a statement.

Honolulu is the top U.S. city for solar capacity per resident, with 646 watts per person, evidence of progress in Hawaii’s goal to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. Los Angeles ranks No. 1 for overall installed capacity, with 420 megawatts, its fifth time in the top spot since the survey began six years ago. San Diego ranked second nationally in both solar PV per capita and overall installed solar capacity.

Regionally, Burlington, Vermont has the most solar capacity per capita in the Northeast; Washington, D.C. leads the South Atlantic; San Antonio ranks first in the South Central region; Indianapolis in the North Central region; Las Vegas in the Mountain region; and Honolulu in the Pacific. Overall, the amount of solar installed in just 20 U.S. cities at the end of 2018 exceeded the amount installed nationally in 2010.

“The difference between cities leading on solar energy and those that are lagging is effective public policy - at the state and local level,” said Abigail Bradford, the report’s co-author and a policy analyst at Frontier Group. “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.”