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U.S. cities shining examples of solar power's promise

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Boston, MA- Sixty-five major American cities are responsible for more solar power capacity than was installed throughout the country in all of 2009, according to a new analysis. The report, Shining Cities, highlights the nation’s top cities for solar panels deployed within their borders. 

“These cities are shining examples of solar power’s promise,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director at Environment America and co-author of the report. “The fact is, solar is good for cities, and cities are good for solar.”

Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix topped the list for most solar power capacity in the Environment America Research & Policy Center analysis, while Honolulu, Indianapolis, and San Jose led the way for the most solar per capita. While southeastern and southwestern cities dominated the rankings, cities outside the nation’s Sun Belt earning berths in the researchers’ “solar sweet sixteen” included Wilmington, DE; Newark, N.J; and New York City.

Solar power is on the rise across the country, with another panel or project installed every three minutes last year. Plummeting costs, increasing public concern over global warming and energy independence, and technological innovation have all played a role in spurring the growth of the pollution-free energy source. 

According to researchers who examined solar power installations in major cities in nearly every state, the top 20 cities for solar power accounted for 6.5 percent of the nation’s solar capacity, while using just a fraction of a percent of the nation’s land area.

In the face of solar power’s rising popularity and feasibility, however, utilities across the country are campaigning intensely to increase fees for rooftop solar, which they see as a direct threat to their business model.

“With prices going down and concern about global warming going up, solar power is growing rapidly across the country,” said Sargent.  “We need federal, state, and even more city leaders to embrace the policies that allow solar to shine.”

As population centers, cities are home to large electricity markets, and can also have an important influence on the way grids are powered. From Portland, OR to New Orleans, to Jersey City, city leaders are embracing solar initiatives. Mayors from across the country joined Environment America to release today’s report. 

STATEMENTS FROM MAYORS EMBRACING SOLAR POWER IN THEIR CITIES

"Los Angeles is blessed with abundant sunshine and with the most solar power in the country we are proud to be putting it to good use,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We look forward to increasing that amount significantly in the coming years through the nation's largest Feed in Tariff program and broadening adoption by residential customers, simultaneously creating green jobs and combating climate change."

“San Diego is leading the way in solar energy and that’s going to help us meet many of our City’s environmental goals and put San Diegans back to work,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “Solar energy is a key element to the City’s proposed Climate Action Plan, which calls for 100 percent renewable energy use in the City by 2035.” 

“Honolulu is honored to once again earn the top spot in Environment America’s nationwide study on PV capacity per capita,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “Our thriving city in the center of the Pacific has not rested on its laurels.  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 when it comes to clean, sustainable energy.”

"San José is committed to receiving all of its electrical power from clean, renewable sources by 2022, and has been doing its part by investing in solar technology for City buildings,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “We are delighted that our businesses and residents are joining us in that effort with private investments in solar technology, ensuring that San José remains a solar power leader for years to come."

“The City of Wilmington’s solar power usage reflects our community’s strong commitment to integrating solar technology across a variety of platforms,” said Mayor Dennis P. Williams of Wilmington, DE. “Expanding our use of solar and other renewable energy sources will positively impact public health and environmental quality, strengthen the economy and develop more reliable energy sources.”

“Despite changes in the solar market in New Jersey over the past few years, Newark has continued to be a leader in installed solar capacity by prioritizing the creation and promotion of sustainable development activity in our public schools and throughout the City,” said Mayor Ras. J. Baraka of Newark, NJ. “The need for continued, strategic renewable energy development is essential for us to remain one of the top 20 cities nationwide for gross installed solar capacity and the top solar city in the Northeast. However, we see these challenges as opportunities to excel. We will use the energy of solar power to help transform Newark into an example for the nation and a City we can all believe in.”

“The City of Portland is on track to make solar, wind and biogas supply 100 percent of all electricity in City operations,” said Mayor Charlie Hales of Portland, OR. “And we hope to be there soon. As a pollution-free energy source, solar energy is an important part of the City’s overall strategy to protect the climate and reduce carbon emissions."

“Houstonians are increasingly embracing renewable energy, as evidenced by a significant growth in solar installations in the last year,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. “The City is also looking at solar options to provide additional renewable power to our municipal buildings. We want to continue to be the largest municipal purchaser of renewable energy in the nation.” 

"Jersey City has made reducing energy consumption and promoting clean energy solutions, such as LEED certified city buildings that use solar energy, a priority,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. “We know that solar energy solutions not only lead to more sustainable communities, but also provide quality jobs for our residents."

"New Mexico has more sun than any other state in the country, save one, and we haven't even come close to our potential when it comes to solar energy,” said Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. “Santa Fe is leading the way, getting more than 25 percent of our energy from the sun, which has led to more jobs, cleaner air, and improved public health. And we're just getting started."

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