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Northern Cities Gaining in Solar Development

American cities are embracing new, job-creating renewable energy technology, and not all of those cities are in the sunny Southwest.

According to an analysis released recently by Environment America Research and Policy Center, solar power is booming nationwide. The top 20 cities for solar installed in America now have as much solar as the entire country had in 2010. In 2016, solar was the number one new source of energy capacity installed in the United States.

The report, Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, reports on which U.S. cities are leading in per capita solar installation. Some of the top spots are not a big surprise, but some of the smaller cities on the top 20 list show that it isn’t only California that is taking part in the solar revolution. San Diego, Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Jose, and  Phoenix earned top spots, but so did Indianapolis.. Smaller cities in the top 20 included Burlington, VT, New Orleans, LA and Newark, NJ.

“By using solar power in cities across the country, we can reduce pollution and improve public health for everyday Americans,” said Bret Fanshaw with Environment America Research and Policy Center, report co-author. “To realize these benefits, city leaders should continue to embrace a big vision for solar on rooftops throughout their communities.”

The report reveals that it is not only the sunniest cities that are excelling, but also those cities and states that have policies that allow solar to compete in the government-sanctioned monopoly business environment of the utility industry.

“I am proud to see Indianapolis lead the nation as the fourth-ranked city for solar energy per capita, and we are committed to continuing our leadership by streamlining permitting processes and implementing new and innovative ways to encourage solar energy growth,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. “Advancing solar energy in Indianapolis benefits not only our air and water, and the health of our community – it creates high-wage, local jobs and stimulates economic development. I look forward to seeing more solar installed on rooftops across Indianapolis this year, and into the future.”

The report shows that through smart policies, even a city as far north as Portland Maine can be a leader in solar development. “Sustainability must not be just a goal on paper, it must be achieved,” said Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling “That is why it is so critical to not only develop actionable, informed and measurable plans to ramp up solar power, but to commit to their implementation.”

San Diego leads the nation in total installed solar PV capacity among the 66 cities surveyed in this report, replacing Los Angeles, which had been the national leader for the past three years. Honolulu rose from sixth place for total PV capacity at the end of 2015 to third place at the end of 2016. Even the cities that have seen the greatest solar success still have vast amounts of untapped solar energy potential. For instance, San Diego has developed less than 14 percent of its technical potential for solar energy on small buildings.

In addition to the top 20 per capita solar cities, the report looked at other cities leading in solar development. The “Solar Beginners” (Cities with Less than 5 Watts of Solar PV Per Person, End of 2016) which includes Pittsburgh, Chicago and Milwaukee,  and “Solar Builders” (Cities with 5 – 25 Watts of Solar PV Per Person, End of 2016), including Tampa, Seattle and Cincinnati.  

To view the full report, visit Environment America’s website.


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