Honolulu,Indianapolis, San Jose, Calif., San Diego and Albuquerque, N.M., stand out asthe top five U.S. cities for installed solar photovoltaic capacity per capita,according to a ranking released by environmental group Environment America onApril 6.
Thereport, "ShiningCities 2016," counts the major cities with the most solar based onresidential solar panels and utility-scale photovoltaic projects within thelimits of each city, drawn from data reported by local utilities, governmentagencies and other sources.
Theranking comes at a time when solar generation is becoming more popular. The 64cities in the report have installed more than 1,700 MW of solar photovoltaiccapacity, which is nearly as much solar power that existed in the whole countryat the end of 2010, according to Environment America.
Atthe same time, the growth in residential solar has led to many legislativefights in states around the country over net-metering policies that allowcustomers using solar panels to sell their excess electricity back to the gridat the retail rate. One common factor among many of the cities that rank highin PV capacity, both in terms of total numbers and per capita, is that they arein states that favor net-metering, the report said.
Thereport reveals that some cities that are in areas with high potential for solarhave not installed that much capacity on a per-person basis. For example, LosAngeles tops the list of cities in terms of total solar PV capacity installed,with 215 MW, ahead of second place San Diego at 189 MW. But on the per-capitaranking, Los Angeles lands at just 15th place, with 55 MW, compared to SanDiego's 136 MW and Honolulu's 417 MW.
"Citiessuch as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Antonio have the technicalpotential to generate tens to hundreds of times more solar energy than theycurrently do, according to a recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)analysis of rooftop solar potential," the report said.
Hawaiihas been one of the quickest states to embrace solar, especially given it isone of the few places where battery storage technology to back up solar energyhas proven to be economic due to the state's high electricity costs.
Indianapolisis an outlier among the sunny, high-ranking cities near the top of the list.One reason explaining the Indiana capital's position, according to reportco-author and Environment America Solar Program Coordinator Bret Fanshaw, isthat the city's airport and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500,each have large solar panel arrays on site. These arrays were included in thecity's solar PV numbers, and add about 100 MW to the count of 124 MW in totalcapacity. Still, even 24 MW would put Indianapolis in the top 20 cities fortotal PV capacity.
Somecities that have been particularly aggressive about adding solar do not rankhigh in the report due to the study's methodology. For example, Austin, Texas,has 33 MW of solar capacity within city limits, but it buys much more solarpower from outside the city itself. In October 2015, the Austin City Councilvoted to authorizeutility Austin Energyto sign contracts for up to 300 MW of solar power from West Texas.