The solar power industry is in the middle of a spectacular growth spurt in the United States, especially in densely populated areas.
Last year, 20 cities – representing only about 0.1% of U.S. land area – accounted for a stunning 6.5% of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, according to a recent report by Environment America, a Boston-based non-profit focused on energy and environmental policy issues.
The report, called Shining Cities, ranked the 65 largest U.S. cities based on the total amount of solar PV capacity installed within the geographic limits of each city. About 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV capacity has been installed in the 65 largest U.S. cities cumulatively, according to the report.
In 2014, the United States had installed about 20,000 megawatts (MW) of cumulative solar PV capacity, enough to power four million average U.S. homes. To put this in perspective, in 2000, only about 170 MW of solar PV capacity had been installed nationwide.
The accelerated deployment of solar PV in recent years has been driven by improvements in technology, price reductions and the development of creative business models that have spurred investment in residential solar systems. Los Angeles boasts the largest total amount of installed solar PV capacity, followed by San Diego and Phoenix.
Contrary to what you may suspect, some of the most rapid rates of solar installation have been seen in cities not especially known for their sunshine.
Take Indianapolis, which took the second spot on the list of U.S. cities with the greatest amount of solar PV capacity installed per capita .