A new report found the country has made some serious solar strides in 2016, particularly in 20 cities across the country.
America's "shining cities" helped the country attain 42,000 megawatts of solar energy capacity by the end of 2016 — enough energy to power 8.3 million average homes and slash annual carbon emissions by 52.3 million metric tons, the Frontier Group and the Environment America Research and Policy Center reported.
Image: Environment America Research and Policy Center
Last year, the 20 top U.S. cities collectively accounted for nearly as much solar power as the entire country had installed at the end of 2010.
Solar power is rising across the U.S. and around the world as technology prices and installation costs plummet. In many major economies, solar power (sans subsidies) is starting to outcompete coal and natural gas, and new solar projects are costing less to build than wind farms, Bloomberg New Energy Finance found.
Top 20 Solar Cities in 2016 (Total Installed Solar PV Capacity)
San Diego, CA
Los Angeles, CA
San Jose, CA
New York, NY
San Antonio, TX
Las Vegas, NV
San Fransisco, CA
New Orleans, LA
Despite the serious increase in solar capacity, the majority of U.S. cities have only just started to tap into their true solar energy potential, the two environmental groups said in their report.
Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and San Antonio have the technical potential to generate "tens to hundreds of times more solar energy" than they do now, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)'s rooftop solar analysis for small buildings.
The map below depicts each state's level of solar installation, so you can get a better sense of how beginners in the Midwest compare to "Solar Stars" on the West Coast — though even the top solar cities have room for improvement.
Image: ENVIRONMENT AMERICA RESEARCH AND POLICY CENTER
According to the report, San Diego — the nation's current solar energy installation leader — has developed "less than 14 percent of its technical potential for solar power on small buildings."
With the Trump administration promising to double down on coal-fired power plants and unravel federal policies for clean energy, U.S. cities and states now have an even bigger role to play in tackling climate change.