By - Jim Vess

Solar PV capacity continues to grow in urban America led by California cities

Energize Weekly, April 17, 2019

American cities are continuing to be a beacon for solar generation as the number of large municipalities with more than 50 megawatts (MW) installed has tripled to 23, while 45 cities have doubled their photovoltaic (PV) solar capacity.

Those were among the findings in the sixth annual survey of solar in large cities by the Environment America Research and Policy Center and the Frontier Group.

Los Angeles has the most installed PV capacity, about 420 MW, followed by San Diego with 351 MW and Phoenix with 236 MW.

The survey said that since 2016, Los Angeles has added more than 150 MW of capacity.

The top 10 cities were dominated by those with good solar resources including Las Vegas, Denver, San Jose and San Antonio.

On a per-resident basis, Honolulu was the leader with 646 watts of installed capacity per person, followed by San Diego with 248 watts and San Jose with195 watts. Honolulu was also fourth in total installed capacity with 227 MW.

Still, leading cities were found in all regions. New York City was sixth in total installed capacity with 200 MW, and Indianapolis was eighth with 124 MW. Burlington, Vt., was fourth in installed solar per resident with 187 watts per person.

The survey dubbed those cities with more than 50 watts of installed capacity for each resident “solar stars” and said this group has “experienced dramatic growth in solar energy and are setting the pace nationally for solar development.”

The top cities list also includes New Orleans (107 watts per capita), Washington, D.C. (91 watts), Jacksonville, Fla. (62 watts), Austin, Texas (53 watts) and Boston (55 watts).

“Some of the cities in this report could generate hundreds of times more solar power than they do today,” the survey said. “A National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study estimated that building rooftops alone are technically capable of hosting enough solar energy to cover the annual electricity needs of more than 121 million American homes—about as many as exist in the U.S. Cities can go even farther by encouraging solar installations on large buildings and stand-alone utility-scale installations.”

The report also found that smaller cities are “going big on solar.” By the end of 2018, Santa Fe, N.M., had installed the equivalent 225 watts per person, third only to Honolulu and San Diego of all the cities surveyed.

Tallahassee, Fla., had 30 MW of installed solar capacity and an average of 157 watts per resident—enough to make it a solar star.

“America’s major cities have played a key role in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap tremendous benefits from solar energy,” the report said. “As population centers, they are major sources of electricity demand and, with millions of rooftops suitable for solar panels, they have the potential to be major sources of clean energy production as well.”

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