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San Diego Ranks #1 Nationally in Solar Panel Installations

  |   Solar Energy

Marking a big step toward implementing San Diego’s Climate Action Plan and the goal of 100 percent renewable energy use citywide by 2035, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer joined Environment California to release a report on April 4 that ranks San Diego No. 1 in solar energy capacity nationwide after increasing its solar energy installations over the past year.


“San Diego is setting the standard for other cities across the country when it comes to protecting our environment and creating a cleaner future,” Mayor Faulconer said. “This new ranking is a testament to the many San Diego residents and businesses harnessing our natural resources as we march toward our goal of using 100 percent renewable energy throughout the city.”


Environment California Research & Policy Center’s “Shining Cities” report ranked San Diego No. 1 nationally with 303 megawatts of installed solar capacity. Researchers said San Diego currently has enough solar capacity to power the equivalent of nearly 76,000 homes. A year ago, the City had 189 megawatts of installed solar capacity, enough to power 47,000 homes.


“San Diego has so much more untapped solar potential and we encourage city leaders to continue to embrace a big vision for solar on rooftops throughout the city,” said Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate for the Environment California Research & Policy Center. “By making the most of San Diego’s solar potential, we can reduce pollution and improve public health for all San Diegans and continue to set a strong example for cities all across the country.”


San Diego leads the nation in total installed solar capacity among the 73 cities surveyed in the report, replacing Los Angeles, which had been a national leader for the past three years. San Diego ranked second in the country for solar installations between 2014 and 2016.


“The continued growth of San Diego’s solar market is testament to the strength of our region’s cleantech leadership,” said Cleantech San Diego President and CEO Jason Anderson. “We are proud to be part of a forward-thinking community that values innovation, sustainability, and collaboration for the benefit of the economy and the environment.”


Increasing the amount of solar panels used in San Diego will help meet the ambitious goals in the City’s PDF icon Climate Action Plan, including using 100 percent renewable energy citywide and cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035.


“San Diego is truly leading the way on solar power,” said Councilmember Chris Cate, who serves as Vice Chair for the City Council’s Environment Committee. “Being recognized as the top solar city in the nation validates San Diegans’ efforts to move toward energy independence, sustainability, and self-reliance. The future is bright for our city.”


In recent years, the City’s Development Services Department has focused on easing the permitting process for solar projects. Streamlining measures include:


  • Moving solar permitting program functions to the City Operations Building to centralize review disciplines and increase customer convenience
  • Reducing turnaround time for permitting of single family residential roof mounted solar projects to 3-5 days, compared to the previous 10-day wait period
  • Increasing the hours for solar appointments and drop-off service
  • Dedicating additional staff to the solar permitting program
  • Creating a professional certification program to eliminate the plan review process, allowing staff to issue permits without a plan review
  • Encouraging electronic submittal and review to eliminate need to make trips to City offices
  • Allowing minor changes to plans to be approved in the field by an inspector


Tuesday’s announcement was held at Kearny High School, which has carports topped with more than 1,000 solar panels. They generate up to 240 kilowatts of power and save the San Diego Unified School District $43,000 per year in energy costs.


“San Diego Unified is committed to sustainability and to improving the environment our students will inherit,” said Cindy Marten, Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District. “By producing more than 7.4 million kilowatt hours of clean renewable electricity per year, and we plan to more than double that in the next two years, we are not only trying to set an example for our students, we’re providing them with educational opportunities that prepare them for careers that support sustainability.”       


The school district plans to install 20 additional solar energy systems by the end of next year. When up and running, the district will generate nearly 18 million kilowatt hours of clean energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 8,200 tons per year.


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