How's your town doing on solar?

Curious how your town and county stacks up with others in California on solar?

We were curious, too. So we matched state solar installation and population data and calculated the number of solar installations per capita for every county and town in California.*  Figures are accurate as of roughly September. 

You can see where your city and county rank here. Below are some of the highlights:

Top ten California cities for solar installations per capita

Rank by solar installations per capita City Solar installations per capita Total Solar Installations in City County of Residence City Population
1 Nevada City 22.2% 717 Nevada 3,226
2 Sebastopol 21.9% 1,704 Sonoma 7,786
3 Trinidad 21.2% 72 Humboldt 340
4 Del Mar 16.9% 730 San Diego 4,322
5 Auburn 16.2% 2,360 Placer 14,611
6 Plymouth 16.1% 161 Amador 1,002
7 Loomis 15.4% 1,050 Placer 6,824
8 Sonora 14.3% 699 Tuolumne 4,890
9 Placerville 13.4% 1,431 El Dorado 10,642
10 Rio Vista 13.3% 1,218 Solano 9,188

 

Top ten California counties for solar installations per capita

Rank by solar installations per capita County Solar installations per capita Total Solar Installations in County County Population
1 Glenn 6.0% 1,729 28,796
2 El Dorado 5.6% 10,515 188,399
3 Colusa 5.4% 1,204 22,098
4 Placer 5.2% 20,356 389,532
5 Sutter 4.8% 4,628 97,238
6 Calaveras 4.7% 2,113 45,157
7 Yolo 4.3% 9,483 221,270
8 Yuba 4.2% 3,159 74,727
9 Butte 4.1% 9,378 227,621
10 San Luis Obispo 3.9% 10,892 280,101

 

Solar per capita for ten largest California cities

Rank by population Rank by solar installations per capita City Solar installations per capita Total Solar Installations in City County of Residence City Population
1 384 Los Angeles 0.9% 36,713 Los Angeles 4,054,400
2 193 San Diego 2.9% 41,372 San Diego 1,419,845
3 274 San Jose 2.0% 21,373 Santa Clara 1,051,316
4 363 San Francisco 1.1% 9,855 San Francisco 883,963
5 128 Fresno 4.0% 21,299 Fresno 538,330
6 109 Sacramento 4.5% 22,368 Sacramento 501,344
7 367 Long Beach 1.1% 5,187 Los Angeles 478,561
8 348 Oakland 1.3% 5,472 Alameda 428,827
9 45 Bakersfield 6.7% 26,010 Kern 386,839
10 411 Anaheim 0.5% 1,867 Orange 357,084


Solar per capita for ten largest California counties

Rank by population Rank by solar installations per capita County Solar installations per capita Total Solar Installations in County County Population
1 47 Los Angeles 1.1% 115,374 10,283,729
2 12 San Diego 3.8% 126,653 3,337,456
3 43 Orange 1.6% 52,375 3,221,103
4 19 Riverside 3.2% 77,261 2,415,955
5 35 San Bernardino 2.2% 48,476 2,174,938
6 36 Santa Clara 2.1% 40,848 1,956,598
7 40 Alameda 1.8% 29,933 1,660,202
8 45 Sacramento 1.5% 22,541 1,529,501
9 20 Contra Costa 3.2% 36,619 1,149,363
10 11 Fresno 3.9% 39,008 1,007,229

 

Not surprisingly, smaller towns and counties tend to have higher solar adoption rates than more populated urban areas. None of our largest cities come close to Nevada City's 22% adoption rate or Glenn County's 6% adoption rate. 

And, given the size and complexity of Los Angeles, for example, it is a big deal for LA to have 37,000 solar users - the second largest in the state - even if total solar adoptions is only 1% of the city population. That's why LA got a positive shout out from Environment California recently. 

That said, there is a striking contrast in solar adoption rates among the state's ten largest cities and counties, even among similarly sized large cities. At the top of the pile, what accounts for the difference between San Diego's 3% adoption rate and LA's 1% rate? Or Bakersfield's 6.7% adoption rate vs. Anaheim's .5% rate?

Here's another angle: Bakersfield has over three times the solar adoption of San Jose despite being a third the size. 

The answer can't just be inherent differences between urban/suburban/rural towns. For example, almost 4% of all San Diego county residents have solar, but only 3% of city residents. But that flips when we head up north: over 4% of Sacramento city residents have solar, but less than 2% for Sacramento county overall.

Local solar installers have long noted that vast differences in permitting and inspection red tape between jurisdictions. And some areas are served by public utilities that have terrible solar policies. Palo Alto is notorious for having both problems, which may explain why this wealthy and tech-savvy city has one of the lowest solar adoption rates in the state (.07%).

You can see where your city and county rank here.

 

Related post: Who will be the 1 millionth solar user?

 

* We looked at installation data in areas served by both the big three utilities and most, but not all of the state's public utilities. For simplicity, we did not use data from public utilities districts that covered multiple towns, such as the Imperial Irrigation District. Most of the data is current as of September. This was a quick and dirty project intended to get a rough sense of what's happening out there. These numbers are probably not 100% perfect but we think they paint an accurate picture.  Contact us if you want to learn more about our methodology. 

 


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