California is the U.S. leader in solar installations and one of the top solar markets in the world. Light years ahead of most other states, they continue to pioneer the future of solar energy. And while California benefits from aggressive state solar policies, several individual cities are leading the way in their own right.
A recent survey by nonprofit Environment California expounds on California’s Solar Cities. The study takes into account several variables: total solar rooftops, cumulative power produced, and per capita adjustments. Let’s take a look at the solar cities in America’s “Solar State.”
San Diego is the state leader in number of solar rooftops, with 2,267 installed as of the beginning of 2009. That number trumps second place Los Angeles by nearly 800 rooftops, and San Diego’s solar installations create roughly 19.4 MW of electricity — enough to power 12,000 homes. How do they do it? City officials point to state solar incentives and, locally, fast-track permitting for solar projects.
San Francisco residents get help from their Public Utilities Commission, whose GoSolarSF rebate program saw 850 households, businesses and nonprofits apply for participation in its first year on the books — a four-fold increase from the previous year. In fact, among major California cities, San Francisco is still number one in solar rooftops per capita.
LA actually held the number-two spot until updated info hit the Environment Calfornia site. And as it stands, the City of Angels is only about 50 solar roofs behind its Bay Area competitor. LA has nearly 13.5 MW of solar power installed to date and is aggressively seeking more. For starters, Los Angeles County will drastically lower its solar permit fees. City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a plan last Thanksgiving to produce 1,280 MW of solar power over the next several years (although a good portion of that plan barely lost as a ballot measure last spring).
While coming in fourth in number of solar roofs (1,336), San Jose jumps to second — ahead of SF and LA — in power produced at 15,818 kilowatts. San Jose has qualified for federal funding under the Solar America Cities Partnership, and Mayor Chuck Reed’s bold Green Vision for his city is aimed at producing 100 percent of the city’s electricity from renewable resources within 15 years — a goal sure to keep San Jose among California’s top solar cities.
In total solar roofs, Berkeley comes in 10th with 648 — coming in behind potential surprises, such as Fresno, Bakersfield, Clovis, Santa Rosa and Sacramento. But Berkeley cannot be ignored as a top solar city in California. This relatively small community in the Bay Area has been a major influence on local solar policies in California. Berkeley’s innovative solar lending program has captured the attention of the entire world and is already being copied in many states and municipalities, including state leader San Diego.
Nevada City? How does this remote city about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento get lumped in with the big sun dogs of California? Well, with population taken into account, Environment California’s data shows that nearly one-in-five households in Nevada City has a solar system. About 289 watts of solar power is installed for each resident in town.
City of Industry
In total watts installed per capita, City of Industry comes in a dominant first place with over 1.5 kilowatts of solar power installed for every resident. This statistic is due mainly to large solar installations within town limits and a relatively small population. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive number.