Riverside Increases in Rank to #8 in the Nation for Cities Producing Solar Power


(This article contains excerpts written by Steve Scauzillo of The Press Enterprise, and published on April 10, 2019)

One of the up-and-coming municipalities in solar energy is the city of Riverside, which was ranked No. 8 out of 22 cities across the nation for producing 50 or more watts of solar power per person as measured at the end of 2018, according to [a report: “Shining Cities 2019: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy” written by Environment America Research & Policy Center.]

Riverside supplies a total of 45.3 megawatts of solar power, or 138.3 watts per person, just behind Indianapolis, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Burlington, Vermont, San Jose and San Diego. Honolulu is way out in front in per capita solar distribution at 646.6 watts.

The Inland Empire city also was one of 19 that quadrupled production from 2013-2018 and was the only city in California to make that list.

“This (report) says the future is bright for solar power,” said Dan Jacobson, state director with Environment California, a chapter of the national group. “We have cities all over the country taking a leadership role in clean energy.”

As evidenced by the study, solar power is not just a “sun coast” phenomenon. Some of the leading cities include: New York (200 MW), Indianapolis (124 MW), Phoenix (236 MW), San Antonio (187 MW) and Washington D.C. (63.6 MW). Smaller cities adding solar include: Trenton, New Jersey; El Paso, Texas and Ypsilanti, Michigan.

However, these cities are still far behind L.A. with 420 MW and San Diego at 351 MW.

The aggregate study explodes the myth that only cities in the sunny West can install photovoltaic panels on residential and commercial rooftops to reduce their carbon footprint, cut back on greenhouse gases which contribute to global climate change and clean the air, Jacobson said.

“What makes L.A. so good is they have city policies that have created big solar projects, like the new PV panels at Staples Center and at the airports,” he said. “But L.A. could be doing a lot better.”

Even the leading cities have only developed less than 5% of their solar capacity which could be installed on small building rooftops, the report concluded, adding: Los Angeles today easily could add up to 5,000 MW of solar PV capacity on small rooftops alone. That would represent 12 times the solar capacity currently installed.

Of the cities studied, “33 could install 50 times as much solar PV as they currently have installed in total on their small building rooftops alone,” the report said under the heading “Solar Potential in U.S. Cities.”

Even with growth, solar power represents about 10% to 15% of the electrical power generated in the country, Jacobson said. “There’s still a long way to go,” Jacobson said.

Some of the challenges are right around the corner.

For instance, the federal solar tax credit of 30 percent drops to 26 percent for projects that begin construction in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021. In 2022, the tax credit disappears for individual installations.

Some are counting on the decrease in the cost of solar to make up for the loss of solar tax credits. For example, the cost has fallen more than 70% in the past decade, and prices in the fourth quarter of 2018 were at their lowest average. The Solar Energy Industry Association, a trade group that keeps track of sales, reported the price of an average-sized residential system fell from $40,000 in 2010 to $18,000 in 2019.

Some installations are including battery storage, which are also dropping in price, Jacobson said. Clean energy and solar company lobbyists want Congress to extend the tax credit to battery packs, but that idea is getting pushback from fossil fuel generators, he said.

“The utilities want to knock those programs down. They are not big fans of those projects,” Jacobson said. “We’ve got to make it easier.”

Southern California Edison is working toward implementing a green energy program that would increase solar options to customers living in disadvantaged communities, said Jill Anderson, vice president of customer programs and services in an emailed response.

Cities that have increased solar installations are usually those that make permitting easier and less expensive, he said. Also, more smaller companies are installing solar panels, and that means more work is being done.

The SEIA estimates 242,000 Americans work in the solar industry, a number that has doubled since 2012. In 2018, the solar industry added $17 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the SEIA.