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Ranking California cities by their solar footprint

January 24, 2012|By Ronald D. White
  • Solar panels on the roof of the complex of Casa Dominguez, a low income housing project in East Rancho Dominguez in south L.A. County.
Solar panels on the roof of the complex of Casa Dominguez, a low income housing… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Which California city currently has more solar power installations within its boundaries and generates more solar energy than any other? Here's a hint: it's not Los Angeles.

San Diego is the California leader when it comes to solar power, according to a new statewide analysis that will be unveiled there Tuesday morning by the Environment California Research and Policy Center.

In 2011, San Diego had 4,507 solar power installations, generating almost 36.7  megawatts of power from the sun. To put that in perspective, Environment California said that would be enough to rank San Diego among the top 25 nations in the world.

Los Angeles was second in the rankings, with 4,018 installations and a little less than 36.2 megawatts. San Jose was third, with more than 2,700 installations and 31MW.

The report focuses on solar photovoltaic installations that are mostly owned by ratepayers or by third-party financing companies, as opposed to electric utilities. The installations are located on or near buildings throughout the state, the report said.

The report highlights just how far the state has come in utilizing the sun's energy, but it also warns that it has much farther to go. As of 2010, solar power was still contributing little of the state's total energy needs, according to the California Energy Commission.

"Ten years ago, solar panels atop roofs were a rarity," the report said. "Today, solar is taking hold in cities across the state, from coastal metropolises to agricultural and industrial hubs in the Central Valley. In the past two years alone, the solar industry has installed more than 5,000 kilowatts of solar power in each of 10 different California cities."

The report is comprehensive, documenting "the number of grid-connected solar electric systems
installed in California and their total electric generation capacity on a city-by-city basis" throughout the state.

For anyone keenly interested in how the state's cities and towns compare, the report also break down the analysis in almost every way imaginably. For example, to detail how cities rank in terms of the number of solar installations per 100 residents, the results are separated by population levels of towns with 1,000 to 10,000 residents, by cities with 10,000 to 50,000 residents, and by those with populations of more than 50,000.

Those and similar results show Los Angeles trailing in some categories.

"While L.A. is a leader in terms of total installed projects, it has yet to achieve the level of solar penetration seen in some of the other top 10 cities," such as Santa Rosa and Clovis, the report said.

The Environment California Research and Policy Center report also includes a number of recommendations. Among them: California officials should "increase the use of solar energy systems in new construction by requiring all new homes to include solar power or other on-site renewable electricity generation by no later than 2020, and all new non-residential buildings by no later than 2030."

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