The Boston skyline is visible over the largest solar installation in Boston, located on a warehouse in the Seaport district.
Shining Cities 2022
The top U.S. cities for solar energy

Executive Summary

Solar power continues to expand rapidly. The United States now has 121.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, producing enough solar energy to power more than 23 million homes.1 Millions of Americans have invested in solar energy and millions more are ready to join them.2

America’s major cities have played a key role in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap tremendous benefits from solar energy. 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.

Our eighth survey of solar energy in America’s biggest cities finds that the amount of solar power installed in just nine U.S. cities exceeds the amount installed in the entire United States 10 years ago.3 Of the 56 cities surveyed in all eight editions of this report, 15 recorded a tenfold increase in their solar capacity between 2014 and 2022.

To continue America’s progress toward renewable energy, cities, states and the federal government should adopt strong policies to make it easy and affordable for homeowners, businesses and utilities to “go solar.”

The cities with the most solar PV installed per resident are the “Solar Superstars” – cities with 100 or more watts of solar PV capacity installed per capita. Next are “Solar Stars” with over 50 watts per person. In 2014, only eight of the cities surveyed for this report had enough solar PV per capita to be ranked as “Solar Stars,” but now 34 cities have earned the title.

Figure ES-1. The number of “Solar Stars” (cities with >50W of solar per capita) in each edition of Shining Cities

Honolulu leads the United States for solar power per person among cities surveyed, followed by Las Vegas, San Diego, Albuquerque and San Jose. All of the “Solar Superstars” have experienced strong and sustained growth in solar energy and are setting the pace nationally for solar energy development.

Figure ES-2. Major U.S. cities by installed solar PV capacity per capita, end of 2021 (watts per person)


Table ES-1. The “Solar Superstars” (cities with 100 or more watts of solar PV per person, end of 2021)

Per capita rank City State Region Per capita solar (watts per person) Total solar capacity (MW) ǂ Total solar rank
1 Honolulu HI Pacific 1,133.5 397.8 4
2 Las Vegas* NV Mountain 689.9 442.8 3
3 San Diego CA Pacific 337.4 468.0 2
4 Albuquerque NM Mountain 295.5 166.8 9
5 San Jose CA Pacific 287.1 290.9 8
6 San Antonio TX South Central 247.4 354.9 5
7 Burlington VT Northeast 222.9 10.0 46
8 New Orleans LA South Central 218.0 83.7 15
9 Phoenix AZ Mountain 212.7 342.0 7
10 Washington* DC South Atlantic 203.3 140.2 10
11 Riverside CA Pacific 195.0 61.4 19
12 Denver CO Mountain 189.0 135.3 11
13 Salt Lake City UT Mountain 182.8 36.5 24
14 Los Angeles CA Pacific 166.7 649.9 1
15 Sacramento CA Pacific 159.8 83.9 14
16 Indianapolis IN North Central 142.1 126.1 12
17 Newark NJ Northeast 112.0 34.9 27
18 Hartford CT Northeast 102.1 12.4 41
19 Charleston* SC South Atlantic 101.5 15.2 38

ǂ Throughout the report, includes all solar PV capacity (rooftop and utility-scale solar installations) within the city limits of each city in DC Megawatts. Does not include solar power installed in the extraterritorial jurisdictions of cities, even those installed by or under contract to municipal utilities. See Methodology for an explanation of how these rankings were calculated. See Appendix B for city-specific sources of data.

* Due to an improvement in methodology or data source for this city, total and per capita solar PV capacity reported in this table may not be directly comparable with estimates for this city in previous editions of this report. See Appendix B for details on specific cities.

Los Angeles leads the nation in total installed solar PV capacity among all cities surveyed in this report, as it did from 2014 to 2016 and from 2018 to 2020, after briefly being topped by San Diego in 2017.

Figure ES-3. Major U.S. cities by total installed solar PV capacity, end of 2021 (MW)


Table ES-2. Top 20 shining cities by total installed solar PV capacity, end of 2021

Total solar rank City State Region Total solar capacity (MW) Per capita solar (watts per person) Per capita rank
1 Los Angeles CA Pacific 649.9 166.7 14
2 San Diego CA Pacific 468.0 337.4 3
3 Las Vegas* NV Mountain 442.8 689.9 2
4 Honolulu HI Pacific 397.8 1133.5 1
5 San Antonio TX South Central 354.9 247.4 6
6 New York NY Northeast 354.4 40.3 38
7 Phoenix AZ Mountain 342.0 212.7 9
8 San Jose CA Pacific 290.9 287.1 5
9 Albuquerque NM Mountain 166.8 295.5 4
10 Washington* DC South Atlantic 140.2 203.3 10
11 Denver CO Mountain 135.3 189.0 12
12 Indianapolis IN North Central 126.1 142.1 16
13 Austin TX South Central 92.3 96.0 20
14 Sacramento CA Pacific 83.9 159.8 15
15 New Orleans LA South Central 83.7 218.0 8
16 Houston TX South Central 81.4 35.3 41
17 Jacksonville^ FL South Atlantic 63.6 67.0 30
18 San Francisco* CA Pacific 62.8 71.9 26
19 Riverside CA Pacific 61.4 195.0 11
20 Chicago IL North Central 51.8 18.9 51

* Due to a change in methodology or data source for this city, total and per capita solar PV capacity reported in this table may not be directly comparable with estimates for this city in previous editions of this report. See Appendix B for details on specific cities.

^ Updated data not available. Capacity estimate is from Shining Cities 2020.

Leading solar cities can be found in every region of the country. Leaders in per capita solar capacity by census region include Honolulu in the Pacific region, Las Vegas in the Mountain region, Indianapolis in the North Central region, San Antonio in the South Central region, Washington, D.C., in the South Atlantic region, and Burlington in the Northeast region.

Fossil fuel interests and some utilities are working to slow the growth of distributed solar energy. Over the past few years, many states have considered or passed rollbacks to net metering – the critical practice of crediting solar energy customers for the excess energy they supply to the grid.4 Additionally, some states and utilities continue to target solar customers with special fees, charges and rate designs in order to reduce the appeal and financial promise of installing solar panels. These changes undermine the value of solar power and can stall cities’ development of their solar resources.

To take advantage of the nation’s vast solar energy potential and move America toward 100% renewable energy, city, state and federal governments should adopt a series of strong pro-solar policies.

Local governments should, among other things:

  • Establish goals for 100% renewable energy and create roadmaps and programs to meet those goals.
  • Adopt Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+), a fast, automated online permitting system developed by the Department of Energy and available free of charge for local governments.
  • Expand access to solar energy to apartment dwellers, low-income residents, small businesses and nonprofits through community solar projects, virtual net metering and third-party financing options such as power purchase agreements (PPAs).
  • Implement policies that support energy storage, electric vehicle smart charging and microgrids.

State governments should, among other things:

  • Adopt and preserve strong interconnection and net metering policies that support, not punish, solar adoption.
  • Set a target of using 100% renewable energy, put a plan in place to reach that goal, and encourage utilities to pursue a 100% renewable energy supply.
  • Encourage solar energy installations through incentives such as rebate programs, green bonds, Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing, tax credits and financing programs such as low- or zero-interest loans.

The federal government should, among other things:

  • Continue and expand financing support for solar energy, particularly the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which currently provides a 26% tax credit for the cost of installing solar panels.5 The credit should be restored to 30% and extended to apply to energy storage systems, such as stand-alone batteries.
  • Continue to support research to drive solar power innovations, such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.
 
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Solar Design Associates - www.solardesign.com
 

  1. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), U.S. Solar Market Insight, 10 March 2022, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20220312063518/https://www.seia.org/us-solar-market-insight.↩︎
  2. David Feldman, Kevin Wu and Robert Margolis, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, H1 2021 Solar Industry Update, 22 June 2021, available at https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy21osti/80427.pdf.↩︎
  3. SEIA, U.S. Solar Market Insight 2012 Year in Review, 14 March 2013, available at https://www.seia.org/research-resources/us-solar-market-insight-2012-year-review.↩︎
  4. Ivan Penn, “A fight over rooftop solar threatens California’s climate goals,” New York Times, 24 January 2022, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/business/energy-environment/california-rooftop-solar-utilities.html.↩︎
  5. SEIA, Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), archived 10 February 2022 at https://web.archive.org/web/20220210224156/https://www.seia.org/initiatives/solar-investment-tax-credit-itc.↩︎