AUSTIN - Austin continues to shine in solar energy, according to the eighth edition of Environment Texas Research & Policy Center’s Shining Cities: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy. The report found Austin Energy had the most solar per capita for total solar (both inside and outside the service territory) among surveyed municipally owned utilities with 3,119.8 watts per person. The city ranks 13th in total installed solar capacity within city limits. The report, which is the most comprehensive survey available of installed solar capacity in major U.S. cities, found that total solar capacity increased almost 50% between the end of 2019 and the end of 2021. The city is home to 92.3 megawatts of solar capacity, or about 96 watts per person.
This rapid solar growth builds on several years of progress, with significant credit due to the leadership of Austin’s municipal electricity provider, Austin Energy. Previous editions of Shining Cities, which has been released annually since 2014, found that Austin had similarly almost doubled its solar capacity from 2017 to 2019. This edition of the survey tracked data through December 2021.
“Austin once again stands out as a solar leader,’ said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. “This Earth Week, I’m struck by how far we’ve come toward tapping the immense power of the sun – the last few editions of this report go to show just how much progress we’ve made here in Texas. Austin’s leadership on solar to date has helped secure a cleaner environment, healthier community and more resilient future.”
Austin has taken several actions to help promote solar energy within the past few years.
In September 2021, Austin’s City Council adopted the Austin Climate Equity Plan which includes a goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. In order to achieve that goal, the city is planning to reduce fossil fuel usage to nearly zero, turning instead to cleaner sources of energy such as solar power.
“Cities lead on developing innovative ways to combat climate change. We prioritized solar energy and recognize that it is a key element to meet our goal to achieve 100% carbon-free energy by 2035.” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “Through our solar roof programs, we are adding more clean energy and realizing a more green future."
Beyond the findings in Texas, the report noted that the United States as a whole now has 121.4 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity installed, enough solar energy to power more than 23 million homes. Additionally, the report found that 15 major U.S. cities recorded a tenfold increase in their solar capacity between 2014 and 2022.
Nationally, Honolulu placed first for solar energy capacity per capita, while Los Angeles finished No. 1 in total solar energy capacity installed. San Antonio led the South Central region and the state, ranking fifth in the nation for solar capacity per capita and earning the designation of “Solar Superstar,” with 247.4 solar watts per person. Austin was highlighted as a “Solar Star,” ranking number 20 in the country for solar capacity per capita with 96 watts per person.
These numbers tell the story of progress driven by pro-solar policies, many of which are outlined in the report. Some of those include renewable energy targets, requirements for solar or solar-readiness on new construction, and automated permitting processes that make approvals for rooftop projects quick and affordable.
“I’m so proud to see the leadership of Texas cities, including Austin, featured in this national solar survey,” said Metzger. “But we can’t stop here. Our solar potential is practically limitless, and we can do so much more to tap that potential. We need continued commitment from local leaders across the state, on Earth Day and every day, to pick up the pace of progress even more in the years to come.”
Environment Texas Research & Policy Center works for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate.