San Diego: #2 Best Solar City in the US

By Matthew Wheeland
July 12, 2016
San Diego
Pick My Solar is publishing a series of profiles on the hottest solar cities in the US. We take a look at why these cities have been successful at putting solar panels on rooftops and where to look for solar if you’re ever passing through. Visit the Pick My Solar blog to read all the profiles, including Newark, New Jersey, and San Jose, California.

If you’re looking for an example of a city that has gone solar in a big way, look no further than sunny San Diego, California. And if you want to know why San Diego has embraced solar, look no further than the cost of electricity.

San Diegans pay up to 3 times the national average for electricity. And the retail cost of electricity is steadily increasing. By reducing energy costs right away and extending the savings over the long haul, solar makes financial sense.


Facts about solar in San Diego

  • San Diego is home to 189 MW of solar capacity, just behind Los Angeles (215 MW) and just ahead of Phoenix (147 MW).
  • Since 2014, San Diego has added about 40 MW each year.
  • San Diego-based Sempra Energy, the company that owns San Diego Gas & Electric, is also a top developer of large-scale solar farms.
  • At the end of 2015, San Diego committed to being 100 percent powered by renewable energy by 2035, becoming the largest U.S. city do so.

What makes San Diego a shining solar city?

As a sunny city in a solar-friendly state, San Diego is set up to succeed with solar, but smart policies have helped move the city farther, faster.

San Diego got an early start due to the energy crisis of 2000-01, as noted in a 2011 report from the National Renewable Energy Lab. City leaders realized the importance of building a diversified, reliable, and self-contained energy infrastructure–and that solar would be key to achieving that goal. In 2007, the US Department of Energy named San Diego one of the first Solar America cities, in recognition the city’s leadership with 13 MW of solar then installed.

In 2010, San Diego set its sights higher with a plan to connect 50 MW of solar to the grid. Last year, it adopted a Climate Action Plan to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy by 2035, encouraging rooftop solar deployment and training and certification for solar installers.

San Diegans also benefit from California’s net metering policies, which compensate solar generators for the clean energy they send back to the electric grid, and its property tax exclusion, which means you don’t get taxed on the value of your home solar panels.

These policies have paid off. This summer, the San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) became the first California utility to have customers generating 5 percent of peak load, primarily from solar. This milestone shifts SDG&E customers so that they no longer pay a fixed rate for the energy they consume. Instead, rates vary throughout the day with higher prices during periods of heavy consumption. The new policy is known as net metering 2.0. Solar customers still get compensation for the electricity they send back to the grid.

SDG&E encourages sustainable home construction and renovation. Its Advanced Homes incentives include up to $225 per kW for solar installations, with an additional $1000 per single-family unit with on-site solar.

San Diego County’s Green Building Program reduces the permitting and planning fees for homes that incorporate solar and energy efficiency measures. According to Greentech Media, that could shave another $500 off the cost of a solar system.


Notable solar installations in San Diego

San Diego has installed solar energy systems on a number of city-owned facilities, including water treatment plants and parking structures, producing about 2.2 MW of renewable energy.

A ranking of top solar campuses finds SDSU, the University of San Diego, the San Diego Community College District, and UC San Diego all ranking among the country’s best in various categories. San Diego State University has installed a least six major solar energy systems at the Student Union building, the rec center, the Aquaplex, and elsewhere.

The city of San Diego is home to what may be the world’s tallest solar array, a 32.5 kW vertical installation on the side of the Celadon affordable housing tower in downtown San Diego.

There are even plans to install a floating solar farm atop wastewater treatment facilities in San Diego, a project that not only generates clean energy, but also helps to reduce water evaporation in chronically drought-stricken California.

 

Other San Diego institutions with solar on the roof include:

 

Even with so much solar installed, there is always room for more. If you’re interested in exploring the benefits of home solar, receive free, no-obligation bids on a solar installation for your home by checking out the PickMySolar online marketplace.

 

Matthew Wheeland

Written By

Matthew Wheeland

Matthew Wheeland is a longtime environmental journalist and editor, focused on renewable energy, corporate sustainability, and sustainable agriculture. In his free time, he enjoys biking around San Francisco’s East Bay and marveling at the ever-growing number of solar arrays on his neighbors' roofs.

More articles by Matthew Wheeland

What's Pick My Solar? We empower our customers to adopt clean energy through transparency and choice. Our free, no-obligation platform provides competing solutions from top providers.

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