Ranked: Which US metro areas have the most solar panels on homes?

Cape Analytics is a Mountain View, California-headquartered company that reveals insights about US property by using AI and computer vision to scan and interpret geospatial imagery. So the company decided to look for evidence of solar panels across America, and published their findings in a report today called “The Most Solar Places in America.”

For the first time, Cape Analytics used their AI to look at more than 38 million homes in 21 metropolitan areas across the US in order to gain a better understanding of how many homeowners are actually adopting solar energy.

Here’s what they learned:

  • Of the 38 million homes Cape Analytics examined across the US, 1.8% of them had solar panels.
  • On a per-capita basis in the 21 metropolitan areas it looked at, that came out to 1,837 solar homes per 100,000 homes.
  • San Diego is the most solar city, and Detroit is the least.
  • From this data set, calculations revealed the “Solar 100” (cities with the highest rate of solar — see the report for the full list).
  • Brentwood, California, is the most solar place in the US.
  • Almost all of the other top 100 most solar cities are located in California.
  • More than 30% of the homes in La Costa Ridge in Carlsbad, California, have solar panels, making it the most solar neighborhood in the country.

Which metro areas have the most solar panels?

Here are the rankings of the 21 metropolitan areas Cape Analytics examined when it comes to homes with solar panels per 100,000 homes:

  1. San Diego: 10,195
  2. San Francisco: 6,031
  3. Riverside: 5,863
  4. San Jose: 5,415
  5. Los Angeles: 3,981
  6. Phoenix: 3,644
  7. Tampa Bay: 2,591
  8. Denver: 1,776
  9. Miami: 1,352
  10. New York City: 1,190
  11. Philadelphia: 913
  12. Boston: 849
  13. Washington, DC: 769
  14. Seattle: 657
  15. Dallas: 202
  16. St Louis: 140
  17. Minneapolis: 117
  18. Houston: 110
  19. Chicago: 75
  20. Atlanta: 64
  21. Detroit: 59

Electrek’s Take

Why do the metropolitan areas’ stats pan out this way? First of all, sun has a lot to do with it. California’s climate provides year-round sun, which is obviously kind of important to get your solar panels cranking.

But there’s more to it than that, otherwise Seattle probably wouldn’t even be on this list. Seattle only gets an average of 152 sunny days per year, compared to the US average of 205 days. And Atlanta gets 217 days of sun, yet sits six spots below Seattle. Why?

Wealth is a huge driver of deciding to install solar panels on your house’s roof. Solar panels pay off in the long run, but they cost a fair bit of money up front (unless you lease). The median household income in Seattle hit a record $93,500 in 2018. Compare that with Atlanta, which had a median household income of $51,701 in 2017.

So this explains why wealthier metropolitan areas in sunny California are more likely to have a higher concentration of solar-paneled homes. But this is expected to change, as the cost of solar is dropping. Further, solar also increases the value of homes.

Finally, tax incentives come into play. Arizona offers additional tax credit, and California has incentives based on the energy the panels produce. But Texas has none.

Photo credit: Cape Analytics

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.