Frontier Group


New Release: Shining Cities 2016

Kim Norman

Policy Analyst

American solar power grew at a record-breaking pace in 2015. The U.S. now has more than 27,000 megawatts (MW) of cumulative solar PV capacity, enough to power 5.4 million homes.  As solar technology improves and prices fall, solar energy is becoming not only the preferred fuel choice for the environment, but it is also a smart investment for local economies.  Communities with thriving solar markets are reducing their carbon footprints while providing their residents with cleaner air, a more efficient electric grid and new local job opportunities.

Our new report, Shining Cities: How Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, reveals that much of this solar energy growth has occurred in the nation’s most densely-populated cities, where electricity demand is high and air pollution takes a heavy toll. In the third edition of our annual Shining Cities series, we estimate and compare the amount of solar PV capacity installed within the borders of 64 major U.S. cities at the end of 2015.  We found that 15 of these cities have installed more than 50 watts of solar PV capacity per person, earning “Solar Star” status in our rankings.  Honolulu leads the nation with 417 watts of solar PV capacity installed per capita, followed by Indianapolis (146), San Jose (139), San Diego (136) and Albuquerque (114).

Total Installed Solar PV Capacity per Capita, End of 2015

With such great benefits, you would think that every place in the country would eagerly jump aboard this emissions-free bandwagon.   However, some cities face serious obstacles to solar energy development put up by utility companies or other special interests.  For example, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission’s recent decision to phase out retail-rate net metering now threatens Las Vegas’ status as a solar leader.  A successful solar industry depends on a smart policy framework that can ensure that solar energy is both available and affordable for city residents.

Solar energy policies – far more than the availability of sunshine – dictate which cities and states have developed successful solar industries and which have not. Solar power flourishes in cities where homeowners are paid a fair price for the energy they supply to the grid, where installing solar panels is easy and hassle-free, where there are attractive options for solar financing, and where there has been a strong public commitment to support solar energy development.  To protect our environment, our health, the economy and future generations of Americans, policy-makers at all levels of government must support a nationwide solar energy revolution.


Kim Norman

Policy Analyst

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