20 cities are powering the US solar market, led by those in California

14 April 2014

NEW YORK: Just 20 cities represent 7% of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the United States, new research from the Environment California Research & Policy Center has revealed.

The new report: Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution highlights how 20 cities - which constitute just 0.1% of total American land area - are driving the solar revolution at national level.

Californian cities are at the forefront of this US solar revolution, with Los Angeles in first place and San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco all making the top ten.

LA Council member Mitchell Englander is positive about the future of clean energy in the city: “We are continually striving to make the process of going solar more user-friendly and cost efficient. The future for solar in Los Angeles will only get brighter.”

However, his colleague Council member Paul Koretz, emphasized the need to scale up the city’s commitment. “I'm proud that L.A. is leading the nation on installed solar, but with the release of the disturbing new IPCC report on climate change and the increase of severe weather events around the world, it is clear we need to do more, faster, to address the climate crisis and move away from fossil fuels.”

The Shining Cities report highlights local partnerships as crucial for ambitious solar energy targets and deployment.

In the leading cities, politicians work with local businesses and residents to ensure that solar energy reaches the widest audience possible, the report recognizes. Techniques which have led to greater solar investment locally include tax incentives, low-interest loans and solar-friendly zoning and building codes, the authors elucidate.

Analysts believe cities can play an instrumental role in achieving national action on climate. The report states that city officials can work with state and federal government to ensure that solar energy continues to be developed.

Strong renewable energy standards at state level, when combined with solar carve-outs or feed-in tariffs, net metering and community programs can have a significant impact on solar expansion, the researchers argue.

Today the United States has more than 200 times as much solar PV capacity installed as it did in 2002. In fact more solar was installed in the last 18 months than in the past 30 years.

Similarly, cities should collaborate with the federal government as federal programs such as the Solar America’s Cities and the Energy Efficiency have supported the deployment of solar at the local level.

The report also stressed the economic benefits of solar energy. At present, California’s solar industry employs 47,000 people, which amounts to approximately one-third of all US solar jobs. Nationally solar energy created numerous new jobs - 1 in every 142 jobs in 2013 was connected to the burgeoning industry.

Libby Ferguson, States and Regions Director at The Climate Group responded to the new findings: “This report demonstrates the huge potential of solar PV and that right across the United States from California to North Carolina, New Jersey to New Mexico solar technology is bringing benefits to cities, citizens and companies. More significantly though, the report highlights the importance of having supportive policies at all levels of local, state and federal government in order to ensure that more people are able to benefit from these game-changing low carbon solutions.”

solar pv USA


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Graphs courtesy of Environment California Research & Policy Center

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By Alana Ryan

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