Finding America’s most solar city

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What is your hometown known for? Do you hail from Phoenix, Arizona, the hottest city in the country; Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the pilgrims established their first permanent settlement in the New World; or maybe you come from one of the dozens of comically named cities in Michigan (Hell, Kalamazoo and Bad Axe, just to name a few).

Well, if you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m just from Brentwood, California. There’s nothing notable about Brentwood,” you’d be wrong. That’s because Brentwood is the “most solar” place in America, according to a report released by Cape Analytics. 

Cape Analytics used AI to scan rooftop images of 38 million properties in 21 major metropolitan areas across the United States. Of the 38 million homes analyzed, 1.8% of them had solar panels. On a per-capita basis across the 21 metropolitan areas, that came out to 1,837 solar homes per 100,000 homes. In Brentwood, the per-capita average is 14,844 solar homes out of every 100,000.

If you weren’t surprised to learn that the country’s most solar city is in California, would you be surprised to learn that 93 of the top-100 are? You have to go to the 12th most solar city before a state other than California is represented, when Florence, Arizona, makes the list. In fact, Arizona is the only other state to be featured in the top-100.

When the list is adjusted to account for major metropolitan areas, California dominates thats as well, with San Diego, San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose and Los Angeles taking the top spots, with Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Denver, Miami and New York City rounding out the top-10.

On the other end of the spectrum, Detroit was the least solar of any of the cities analyzed, with just 59 solar homes per every 100,000, which is just barely beaten by Atlanta with 64 systems per 100,000 homes and Chicago with 75 per 100,000.

While it’s the natural conclusion to assume that this list will change as solar becomes more popular across the country, that may not necessarily be true. Because this study tracked only residential solar installations, certain cities can have high potential without any real results. This disassociation between potential and results could come from a litany of factors chiefly utility measures against rooftop solar (fixed charges, no net metering) in the city, or just the city’s economic makeup, as Cape Analytics found wealthier cities to have more solar, understandably. Moreover, California has the impending rooftop solar mandate on all new homes, meaning that there is an active presence keeping those cities atop this list.

Note: This article was corrected on 11/9/19. It originally listed Tucson, AZ. as the nation’s hottest city, when it is Phoenix, AZ.