Solar Cities in the United States

Solar installations have been growing exponentially in the United States and have really picked up the pace in the last couple of years. With states offering solar incentives and pushing for cleaner energy it is making it easier for cities and residences of these states to make the move to solar.  Below is a chart outlining cities photovoltaic (pv), also known as solar energy, capacity in that state (provided by the Environment America Research & Policy Center):

solar cities pv capacity
These cities by far and away are not the only states that are making a splash in the solar industry, this chart does not break down solar energy per person, but it does give us a good feel for the top producers at this time. So what are these cities and others doing to help boost solar production and installation? Let’s take a look at a few neat and interesting approaches, provided by EARPC, that are being taken in this pursuit.

Kansas City is making solar more appealing by reducing the effort it takes to get a system installed. By minimizing the time and non equipment costs associated with installing a solar energy system, Kansas City makes it easier to commit to solar. Kansas City simplified the permitting process allowing plans to be submitted, reviewed and approved all online.  With the reduction in hardware cost such as zoning, planning, financing, and permitting make up about two-thirds the total price of a residential solar system meaning these changes offer big savings. Kansas City also added provisions to its Zoning and Development Code that allow solar energy systems to be installed as accessory on any property in the city (EARPC).

In May, 2016 San Francisco became the first major city to in the U.S. to require photovoltaic or solar thermal solar systems be installed during the construction of new homes and businesses.  This went into effect first day of 2017 and was following paths set by smaller cities in California such as Lancaster and Sebastopol who initiated similar requirements in 2013. The law states ““requiring solar [energy] at the time of new construction is more cost-effective than installing the equipment after construction because workers are already onsite, permitting and administrative costs are lower, and it is more cost effective to include such systems in existing construction financing.”

Baltimore signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Maryland Clean Energy Center to develop a financing model that makes solar energy more accessible to low-income customers. Solar energy systems provide low-income households with security against varying energy costs, lower energy bills and monthly credit for the extra energy they send back to the utility. The new Baltimore programs help combat the upfront costs of switching to solar energy that are currently making solar unavailable to households that don’t qualify for loans or that have insufficient savings. Working with nonprofit organizations and small businesses to offer loans is one way Baltimore is combating the cost for low-income families.

In all types of cities in all types of climates solar energy is becoming a leader in energy creation through many different avenues. In some instances city governments play a big role in getting the solar program started by setting installation capacity goals, implementing solar-friendly laws, and expediting zoning and permitting processes (EARPC). Some cities are implementing financial incentives, while others increase use of solar energy on public facilities.  The story of solar energy will keep growing and expanding taking along with it the cities of the United States. Brighten Solar Co is excited to be a part of this story and do our part in making a difference!