HOUSTON- Houston ranked sixteenth in the nation for total installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the eighth edition of Environment Texas Research & Policy Center’s report Shining Cities: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy. The report, which is the most comprehensive survey available of installed solar capacity in major U.S. cities, found that Houston nearly doubled its total solar capacity between the end of 2019 and the end of 2021. The city is now home to 81.4 megawatts of solar capacity total, which comes out to about 35 watts per person.
This rapid solar growth builds on several years of progress. Previous editions of Shining Cities, released in April of 2019 and May of 2020, found that Houston had similarly more than doubled its solar capacity from 2017 to 2018 and again from 2018 to 2019. This edition of the survey tracked data through December 2021.
“The Bayou City 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. Houston’s leadership on solar to date has helped secure a cleaner environment, healthier community and more resilient future.”
Houston has taken several actions to help promote solar energy within the past few years. In April 2020, the city adopted a Climate Action Plan, which set a target of generating 5 million MWh of electricity from local solar projects per year – which would be enough to power about 350,000 average Texas homes and would require about 3,358 MW of solar capacity – by 2050. The city has leased an old landfill to be the site of the nation’s largest urban solar farm. In April 2021, the city launched a solar co-op program in partnership with Solar United Neighbors, which aims to help more Houston residents go solar. And as of this month, Houston home builders must either install solar or construct houses which can easily incorporate solar PV later.
“We’re proud of Houston’s leadership on clean renewable energy and climate,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “By setting big goals to grow solar here at home and helping more Texans see the benefits of solar for themselves, we are both setting an example for our peers to follow and ensuring a better future for our community.”
Beyond the findings in Texas, the report noted that the United States now has 121.4 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity installed. That’s 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 Energy had the most solar per capita for total solar (installed both inside and outside the service territory) among surveyed municipally owned utilities with 3,119.8 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 bulk purchasing programs to help residents obtain their power from local solar projects 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 Houston, 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.