The market has never been better for alternative energy, and solar power is booming. If you’re a solar contractor or installer, business should be good—but it has the potential to be even better in these solar-friendly cities.
The American cities with the most solar potential are leaders in many ways: from the number of sunny days per year to strong state- and city-level support. The right combination of laws, regulations, solar activism, and available sunlight make these six cities the ones to watch if you want to see your solar business grow.
1. Portland, Oregon
- Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard calls for 50% of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2040. This includes a credit multiplier for solar PV systems with 500 kW–5 MW capacity—if owners installed these systems in 2015 or earlier, they will be given two kilowatt-hours (kWh) for every kWh they generate.
- The state legislature’s House Bill 2620 requires that whenever a public entity constructs or renovates a public building, at least 1.5% of the cost must be spent on green energy technology.
- Energy Trust of Oregon offers Portland General Electric, NW Natural, Cascade Natural Gas, and Pacific Power customers cash rebates for installing solar systems. With the potential to offset 80% of Portlanders’ costs, solar power is an easy sell.
2. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is paving the way for increased solar adoption by cutting red tape, providing net metering incentives, and offering discounts for solar installation.
- The Green Permit Program speeds up permits for solar projects by turning around applications in less than thirty days and even reducing some fees.
- Programs like Solar Chicago help residential customers save up to 25% on panel installation, which aims to encourage greater solar adoption city-wide.
- The Windy City sees almost as much sun as Atlanta or Los Angeles, making it prime real estate for selling solar.
3. Austin, Texas
Home to the Lone Star State’s first all-solar neighborhood, Austin has the ideal combination of solar-friendly policies and residents ready to go solar.
- The city council set a goal to provide 55% of the city’s energy through renewable sources by 2025 and close down some power plants that use fossil fuels.
- Austin passed a law that allows solar installations to exceed city zoning code height limits and be incorporated into historic districts.
4. Coral Gables, Florida
They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Florida’s Coral Gables is one of the most proactive cities when it comes to harnessing and converting that ample sunshine into energy.
- Coral Gables is part of the Green Corridor District, giving the city access to a $550 million fund for green energy upgrades, including solar installations.
- Financing for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) has helped complete over 120 projects in the city, valued at nearly $4 million.
- City commissioners recently passed a bill that allows residents to install solar panels using the Ygrene Energy Fund, so they don’t face any upfront, out-of-pocket costs. Green businesses that are approved by this fund have seen drastic increases in sales.
5. New Orleans, Louisiana
Statewide tax incentives and city initiatives make The Big Easy a great place to be in the solar energy business.
- In 2007, New Orleans was named a Solar America City by the US Department of Energy. By the end of 2013, it could produce enough solar power to support more than 2,500 average homes—and there are still plenty of homes in need of solar conversion.
- Statewide solar tax incentives and residential renewable energy credits make going solar attractive to residents and businesses.
- Make It Right Solar has partnered with local solar installation companies to build over 100 solar-powered homes. This partnership has also helped nineteen solar installers launch their businesses.
6. New Bedford, Massachusetts
Aggressive clean energy goals and state-level support create a welcoming climate and promising future for solar business in New Bedford.
- Mayor Jon Mitchell won the national 2016 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards. He received this recognition because New Bedford has more solar capacity installed—more than 16 MW—per capita than any other US city, and much of this power is used to fuel municipal buildings.
- Thanks to the statewide Commonwealth Solar II program, more than 12,500 solar systems and 80 Megawatts of solar capacity were installed across the state as of April 2016, a nearly $400 million investment.
- In 2010, New Bedford set a goal to install 10 Megawatts of solar power by 2015, and it had exceeded 16 Megawatts by 2014. The city is saving over $6 million each year—2.5% of the city’s budget—thanks to its solar efforts.
Community support, renewable energy goals, and programs to help make solar installation affordable all contribute to the solar potential in each of these markets. Take a look at what customers are paying for solar panel installations in these cities to see if one of them is the next place you need to set up shop.
Written by Brooke Nally, Content Coordinator at Solar Power Authority