Sacramento Is Tops In Per-Capita Solar Energy Capacity

Sacramento California Solar News – The sun never shined brighter in Sacramento as now with some solar statistical information was added to the regions numbers. Sacramento established itself long ago as a leader in solar energy deployment both from a utility standpoint and also helping local Sacramento homes and businesses install solar. Read More

Solar ranking shines brighter
SMUD adds 20 megawatts to U.S. database, making region tops in per-capita capacity. Sacramento Business Journal Melanie Turner STAFF WRITER

Leaders behind a movement to strengthen the Sacramento region’s clean-energy technology industry are celebrating a power boost this week. Additional solar systems in Sacramento County, with a capacity of 20.2 megawatts, that had not been accounted for were added to a national database this week.

That put the six-county region’s solar capacity ahead of the seven-county Bay Area in per-capita installed solar photovoltaic capacity.

And by establishing Sacramento as a leader in solar technology, it could help attract solar manufacturers, installers and users to the region.

Ryan Sharp, executive director of the Center for Strategic Economic Research, said the National Renewable Energy Laboratory database is important because analysts use the data to look at market acceptance of solar technology, or at specific projects in an area. “It allows analysts to look at not only what’s going on with solar in one region, but allows for comparisons across the country,” he said.

“If researchers are looking at this database, Sacramento should put its best foot forward so analysts get a true market picture of the accurate acceptance of solar photovoltaic technology.”

That’s just what economic development leaders recently worked to do. Now, after an update to the database was submitted by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the region’s installed solar kilowatt capacity per 10,000 population jumped from 127 to 217, surpassing the Bay Area’s 196.

While the National Renewable Energy Laboratory database does not calculate solar installations on a per-capita basis, local researchers are using NREL data to do so. “Our analysts and outside analysts use it as well,” NREL spokesman Joe Verrengia said of the solar photovoltaic database. “It’s one of the few national repositories of photovoltaic information that is as close to up-to-the-minute as possible.”

NREL geographers developed Open PV (solar), a free software tool, so people in the rapidly expanding solar sector could keep abreast of the latest installations, capacities and costs. “The whole idea here is there are a number of written reports done almost on a yearly basis to try to get an estimate of the status of the solar photovoltaic market in the United States,” said Ted Quinby, an applications developer at NREL in Golden, Colo.

Every time such a report would come out, “the next day it was out of date,” Quinby said. So Quinby and NREL geographer Chris Helm developed the software tool, and was launched in October. It lets people track where solar systems are being installed and allows installers to use the data to determine their positions in the market.

The Open PV database relies on self-reporting. Data uploads are accepted from utility companies, local and state governments and the public. “It’s accurate to the degree that there’s self-reporting,” Verrengia said. “It relies on people in the solar photovoltaic community adding to that.”

NREL moderates the site and works to maintain its viability. Reports are run, for example, to flag duplicate submissions. While it’s not all inclusive, the site is the “best solar snapshot that is comparable across the nation that exists,” Sharp said.

Bob Burris, a former economic researcher and deputy director for the Sacramento Area Commerce & Trade Organization, agreed that the solar site is “informative and credible.” To ensure the region does all it can to position itself as a clean-tech hub, SACTO executives examined the database and noticed what they thought was a “glaring” omission in Sacramento County.

SACTO brought this to SMUD’s attention. The utility, in turn, determined the number of solar installations listed for the county was, in fact, low. SMUD submitted new information last week, increasing the region’s capacity from 28.6 megawatts to 48.8 megawatts.

“We’re very, very interested in collaborating with our economic development partners and (Rep. Doris) Matsui’s office on opportunities to develop the solar clean-tech economy here in the Sacramento California Solar Power region,” SMUD program manager Greg Hribar said. “If this information helps us position the region for economic growth, we’re happy to help.”

While the seven-county Bay Area still has greater solar capacity than Sacramento 118 solar megawatts compared to the Sacramento region’s 48.8 the Bay Area’s population is three times the size.

Separate calculations have been conducted by the Center for Strategic Economic Research and SACTO, the region’s leading facilitator of economic development, taking into account both solar capacity listed in the national database and the populations of each region.

“It’s the best way to think about comparability when you’re talking about markets that are completely different sizes,” Sharp said.

In each case on a per-capita basis, the Sacramento region’s solar capacity surpasses the Bay Area. According to SACTO calculations, Sacramento leads all metro areas in the state in solar power panels, including San Diego, the Inland Empire and Los Angeles Solar Power, when populations are factored in.

And even without accounting for population differences, the Sacramento region has a greater solar capacity than both San Diego and Los Angeles, according to SACTO.

Both the Bay Area and the Sacramento region solar SEO Optimazion and Marketing  already were far ahead of Denver, Portland, Oregon, and Austin Texas, all regions looking to be national leaders in the clean technology industry, when it comes to straight solar capacity. And Burris noted that according to the NREL data, the Sacramento region, the Bay Area and San Diego combined have more solar installations than any other state.