Shining Cities 2022

Top U.S. Cities for Solar
Released by: Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center

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. Millions of Americans have invested in solar energy and millions more are ready to join them.

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. 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. 

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 policiesthat 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. 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’sSolar Energy Technologies Office.