Cities have turned out to be fertile ground for solar power installations – taking up less than a tenth of the U.S. but holding 7 percent of country’s photovoltaic capacity.
That is the message in “Shining Cities,” a study on urban solar by the Frontier Group and the Environment America Research Policy Center.
With many roofs and grid infrastructure, cities are a prime place for photovoltaic solar, whether it is at the Indianapolis International Airport or atop the Seattle Aquarium. In Denver they can be found on municipal buildings and school rooftops.
The study’s top cities for solar PV are:
• Los Angeles – 132 Megawatts
• San Diego – 107 MW
• Phoenix – 96 MW
• San Jose – 94 MW
• Honolulu – 91 MW
• San Antonio – 84 MW
• Indianapolis – 56 MW
• New York – 33 MW
• San Francisco 26 MW
• Denver – 25 MW
• New Orleans – 22 MW
“America’s leading solar cities are increasing their use of solar energy in a variety of ways. Some cities are focusing on distributed solar PV on homes and small businesses, others are building utility-scale solar power plants, while still others are developing solar energy at the neighborhood scale or through community projects,” the report said.
State and local policies have also given solar a boost. Indianapolis, not the sunniest place in the country or the biggest of cities, is seventh for installed solar in large part because Indianapolis Power and Light adopted a feed-in tariff, which paid above-market-rates for solar power.
The feed-in tariff was adopted in 2010 and was discontinued in March 2013. New York the state has launched an $800 million Sun Initiative.
Colorado is one of 15 state’s where there is now an on-going debate over net metering – which also pays homes and businesses with solar installations for kilowatt-hours put on the gird. Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility, wants to trim the payments.
At Mancinelli’ Auto Repair, in Denver, net metering has added up to payments from Xcel of $600 to $1,100 a year, while the shop pays nothing for electricity, according to owner Steve Mancinelli.
“It has been a very good deal for us,” Mancinelli said. When Xcel moved to tiered rates for commercial properties in 2010, Mancinelli said he looked around for ways to cut his electricity bill. “We looked at several options, but decide on solar.”
The payback period for the investment would six and a half years on the 2.5 MW system. “It seems to be working out,” he said.