Top Cities for Solar Power in the USA

The installed solar power capacity in the USA has risen dramatically over the past years – by the end of 2014, there was a total of 20.5 gigawatts up and running, which is surprising considering that a mere five years ago the installed capacity was only of 2 gigawatts.

Another noticeable feature is that the adoption of solar power across the USA has not been homogeneous, with some cities taking the lead as early adopters of the technology. Of the total installed capacity, 1.3 gigawatts are distributed among only 20 cities, accounting for 6.5% of the national total, according to the Shining Cities report published by the Environment America Research & Policy Center.

Here are the top solar cities in the U.S by state today:

(Please read on below the table.)

It is important to note that the USA is rich in solar resource coast to coast. Of course, areas such as the southwest have the highest rates of solar radiation and therefore the best potential, but solar PV technology is feasible across the entire nation. The cost reduction that has been experienced by solar power has been a general incentive across the board, but there are further ways to promote the technology which typically depend on federal and state authorities.

In general, solar PV systems tend to thrive in cities with the following benefits:


  • • Simple processes for the installation of a solar PV system, with little paperwork and quick response times by the local authorities.
  • • Incentives such as rebates, tax credits, tax exemptions, favorable net metering conditions by the local electric companies and other similar measures.


In short, photovoltaic technology has become affordable and solar radiation is available in generous amounts across the nation – the government is now the key player who can further promote the adoption of solar PV systems. Important steps are being taken, such as the Clean Power Plan, which plans to cut emissions drastically across the nation over the next two decades.


Where is the Action Taking Place?

Surprisingly, the top 20 solar power cities in the USA are not all concentrated to the southwest, as one might tend to believe. They are distributed across the nation, which proves that with the right incentives in place, any city is a good place to invest in solar power!

It should come as no surprise that California is the state with the highest number of cities in the list, including the first, second and fifth place, which are occupied by Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, respectively.


Other Californian cities featured in the top 20 list include San Francisco and Sacramento. California alone has five of the 20 top solar power cities in the USA, and more than half of the nation’s total solar PV capacity! Local programs have played a key role; for example, San Diego has a plan to meet all of its energy needs with renewable energy by the year 2035, and San José plans to do so by 2022.


The state of Texas occupies the second place after California, with two cities featured among the top 20: San Antonio and Austin. Texas enjoys generous amounts of solar radiation, particularly to the west of the state. San Antonio is noticeable for its solar power adoption model: there is a city-owned utility promoting the adoption of PV technology, by allowing homeowners to rent their rooftops for utility-owned PV systems. This allows solar power to be installed even in low income households who might not have access to the technology otherwise.


Only California and Texas have more than one city in the top 20 list, but action is being taken everywhere across the nation:

  • • Honolulu, HI, has the highest installed PV capacity per capita, 276 watts per each person, and there are plans to invest an additional 4 million dollars in rooftop solar power over the next four years.
  • Phoenix, AZ, and Indianapolis, IN, both have total installed PV capacities exceeding 100 megawatts. They are the only non-Californian cities that rank among the top 5.
  • • Southwestern cities in the top 20 ranking also include Denver, CO, Albuquerque, NM, and Las Vegas, NV. The states where the three cities are located are among the richest in terms of solar power potential.
  • • In the southeast, the top solar power cities are Jacksonville, FL, New Orleans, LA, and Raleigh, NC. The southeast region receives considerable solar radiation, particularly in the state of Florida, and could become another hotspot for PV systems. In New Orleans, there is an investment tax credit of 50%, which was introduced to promote rebuilding the city after the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina. The ITC has allowed solar power installations to skyrocket: more than 5,000 rooftop PV systems have been installed over the past five years.
  • • The northeast offers ample potential for rooftop commercial PV systems due the high rooftop area available: New York City, NY, Newark, NJ and Boston, MA, have taken the lead and are featured in the top 20 list. The high electric utility rates of the northeast are a strong reason why solar power is attractive in the region – the savings potential is high!
  • • Finally, the northwest has Portland, OR. Rebates and tax credits have played a key role promoting solar PV technology.


The trend is clear: solar power is feasible in any USA city as long as incentives are available, paperwork is simplified and market entrance barriers are brought down.


Benefits of Solar Power at the City Level

A lot has been said about the benefits of solar PV systems for individual users, but what about the benefits at the city level? The following deserve special mention:


  • • If solar PV systems are widely used in a city, the load on the electric grid is reduced and energy security is increased.
  • • Every kilowatt-hour produced from solar PV systems is a kilowatt-hour that must not be produced with conventional methods such as coal or gas. The result is that cities with widespread use of solar power will reduce pollution!
  • • Adoption of solar PV systems creates a new market – solar power providers are attracted to the city, creating employment and increasing economic activity.


You can also benefit from solar PV technology, and contribute to energy sustainability while lowering your electric utility bills. Talk to our experts today to learn more about the technology, as well as to get information on the incentives and providers at your location!

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