San Jose: #5 Best Solar City in the US

By Matthew Wheeland
June 09, 2016
San Jose Solar Companies

This month, PickMySolar is launching a series of profiles on the hottest solar cities in the US. We’ll 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.

Today we visit San Jose, California. The epicenter of Silicon Valley, this city of just under 1 million residents has earned the #5 spot among top solar cities in the 2016 Shining Cities report, produced by Environment California and The Frontier Group.

Facts about solar in San Jose

  • San Jose has 141 megawatts of total solar capacity installed. That’s enough energy for about 28,000 average-sized homes.
  • San Jose is the global headquarters of SunPower, a $2.4 billion solar panel manufacturer that’s been in the solar business since 1985.
  • The home of the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team, Avaya Stadium, opened in 2015 with an 882-panel solar carport, providing two benefits at once: clean electricity and shade for the VIP parking lot.
  • In 2008, the US Department of Energy selected San Jose as a participant in its Solar America Cities program, highlighting leadership in the promotion of solar energy for homeowners, businesses and the public sector.

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What makes San Jose a Shining Solar City?

As with all of the leading solar cities in the U.S., smart policies help make San Jose fertile ground for solar growth. Though the Golden State may have first earned its nickname from the Gold Rush, the state is blessed with generous solar incentives and regulations that have made California the top solar state by installed capacity by a long shot. 

Foremost among California’s solar-friendly policies is its net metering program, which pays solar generators for the clean energy they send back to the electric grid. First passed 20 years ago, net metering in California is still going strong, with the state’s Public Utilities Commission voting earlier this year to preserve the cornerstone solar policy.

Also notable in California’s solar-friendly policies is the property tax exclusion, which means you won’t get taxed on the value of your home solar panels. (And when you include the fact that solar panels add value to your home, you get a nice win-win with this incentive.…)

The city of San Jose itself is also going to great lengths to encourage its solar boom. In 2007, the city passed an ambitious set of Green Vision Goals that cover every aspect of sustainable cities, with Goal 3 aiming for San Jose to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2022. As of the end of 2013, the city had already achieved 24 percent renewables.

The city’s Solar Roadmap details the progress San Jose has made already, including streamlining the solar permitting process, making the building code more solar-friendly, encouraging easy solar financing through PACE programs, and building the local solar market for residential as well as commercial and public-sector buildings.

In 2008, the San Jose City Council passed its Green Building Ordinance, which requires all private-sector building projects to meet some green building requirements in order to receive a building permit. Depending on the size of the building, residential projects must go through a green-building checklist or, for larger projects, earn LEED certification – which encourages incorporating renewable energy like solar in building construction.

Notable solar installations in San Jose

The sprawling city is increasingly dotted with home solar installations, but one array almost every visitor to San Jose spots is the giant 1.1 MW setup at the San Jose International Airport.

San Jose has been doing solar for so long, some of the installations that were groundbreaking at the time the switch was flipped now seem fairly ho-hum in size. But when San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation announced its 169-kilowatt array in 2007, it was groundbreaking enough to earn a special award from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

View our 2018 Solar Starter Guide

Other San Jose institutions with solar on the roof include:

San Jose has only just begun to tap its solar potential, and prices for installing solar panels are lower than ever before. To receive free, no-obligation bids on a solar installation for your home, check 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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