The Top Solar Citys

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What Are America’s Best Solar Cities?

America’s cities are taking solar power more seriously, according to Environment America. Everyone wins, except some utilities who won’t play ball.

With three out of America’s top five cities in total installed solar capacity, California is running away with the national title, according to EA’s Shining Citiesreport. Clear leader Los Angeles (170 MW) and second-place San Diego (149 MW) nicely represent Southern California, while San Jose (105 MW) lights up Northern California’s reputation.

But when filtered by per capita solar capacity, as of 2014, other solar cities begin working their way up the ranks of municipalities looking to be taken (more) seriously. Indianapolis is a particularly electrifying “Solar Star,” said EA’s report. (We have previously covered Indianapolis’s solar boom.) By claiming fourth place with 107 MW of total installed capacity, the city also stakes its claim as America’s second best in per capita solar, with 127 watts per person.

But Indianapolis has little on the per capita solar champ Honolulu, whose advantageous position in the heart of the sea provides its citizenry with 276 watts per person, so far. “Honolulu is honored to once again earn the top spot,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell beamed in EA’s press release, which featured similar solar testimonials from mayors across America. “In our proposed budget, my administration calls for spending $4 million annually over the next four years to install photovoltaic systems at city facilities to continue pushing the needle.”

It’s a sunny report overall, one that could add polish to America’s less inspiring international performance. The combined political clout and economic influence of America’s mayors are going to come in pretty handy while negotiating (literal) transfers of power with their nation’s utilities — who are not going gently into that good night, to quote a poet.

But the endgame is already here, from increasing public acceptance (79 percent!) to blooming private funding. Last year, global renewable energy investment surged 17 percent to $270 billion, according to the United Nations. American cities have already embraced solarization. Now it’s just a matter for the politicians and bankers to sort out.

“Strong public policies at every level of government can help the United States continue to harness clean solar energy and overcome legislative and regulatory barriers to distributed generation,” Shining Cities concluded. Strengthening net metering laws, investment tax credits and renewable portfolio standards at the state level would help, as would increased funding and deployment at the federal level. Taken together, this new infrastructure would firm up the foundation citizens build their lives upon. No one loses.

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