2024’s Best Cities for Solar Energy

An aerial view of a cluster of homes with solar panels installed on their roofs

Our national solar capacity reached record growth in 2023, but which U.S. cities lead the way in solar power potential?

To mark Solar Week — observed the last full week of March — Roof Gnome ranked 2024’s Best Cities for Solar Energy.

Why Roof Gnome? We connect homeowners with the best solar panel providers, installers, and repairers in their area.

We compared over 470 of the biggest U.S. cities based on the solar viability of their roofs, potential solar energy production, as well as projected financial and environmental impact. We also measured average grid energy prices, access to solar equipment and services, and time to recoup solar investments, among 17 total metrics.

See which cities outshine the others below. To learn how we ranked the cities, check out our methodology.



See how each city fared in our ranking:

In the Spotlight: Top 5 Cities

Check out the slideshow below for highlights on each of our top 5 cities.

Views of desert vegetation and hills in the background form a silhouette under a sunset in Phoenix, Arizona.
No. 1: Phoenix | Overall Score: 65.30

Total Square Footage of Solar-Viable Roofs: 635 Million | Rank: 4
Historical Annual Average Percentage of Sunshine: 85.75% | Rank: 1
Total Yearly Energy Generation Potential (MWh AC): 14.4 Million | Rank: 3
Number of Solar Equipment Dealers: 80 | Rank: 5
Total Metric Tons of Potentially Avoided CO2 Emissions: 9.1 Million | Rank: 2

Photo Credit: Joe Cook / Unsplash / Unsplash License
An aerial view of the Downtown Houston, Texas, skyline with clouds snaking through the buildings
No. 2: Houston | Overall Score: 62.66

Total Square Footage of Solar-Viable Roofs: 1 Billion | Rank: 1
Total Yearly Energy Generation Potential (MWh AC): 18.5 Million | Rank: 1
Total Installation Capacity (MW DC): 14,500 | Rank: 1
Number of Solar Equipment Dealers: 87 | Rank: 4
Total Metric Tons of Potentially Avoided CO2 Emissions: 11.8 Million | Rank: 1

Photo Credit: Vlad Busuioc / Unsplash / Unsplash License
The Griffith Observatory stands atop a hill overlooking the Los Angeles skyline.
No. 3: Los Angeles | Overall Score: 61.32

Total Number of Solar-Viable Roofs: 655,000 | Rank: 1
Historical Annual Average Number of Cloudy Days: 73 | Rank: 15
Total Yearly Energy Generation Potential (MWh AC): 15.6 Million | Rank: 2
Number of Solar Equipment Contractors Within 10 Miles: 67 | Rank: 2
Total Metric Tons of Potentially Avoided CO2 Emissions: 6.7 Million | Rank: 4

Photo Credit: Roberto Nickson / Pexels / Pexels License
Boats float while docked at the marina at sunset, with the San Diego skyline glittering in the background.
No. 4: San Diego | Overall Score: 54.83

Total Number of Solar-Viable Roofs: 301,000 | Rank: 7
Total Installation Capacity (MW DC): 5,900 | Rank: 7
Total Yearly Energy Generation Potential (MWh AC): 8.9 Million | Rank: 5
Net Cost of System After Rebates and Incentives: $9,176 | Rank: 8
Total Metric Tons of Potentially Avoided CO2 Emissions: 3.8 Million | Rank: 17

Photo Credit: Lucas Fonseca / Pexels / Pexels License
An aerial view of the Downtown San Antonio, Texas, skyline at daytime
No. 5: San Antonio | Overall Score: 52.81

Total Square Footage of Solar-Viable Roofs: 651 Million | Rank: 3
Total Installation Capacity (MW DC): 9,200 | Rank: 3
Total Yearly Energy Generation Potential (MWh AC): 12.1 Million | Rank: 4
Total Cost of Utility Power Avoided Over 25 Years: $68,858 | Rank: 58
Total Metric Tons of Potentially Avoided CO2 Emissions: 7.7 Million | Rank: 3

Photo Credit: weston m / Pexels / Pexels License

Highlights and Lowlights

Unsurprisingly, the sunniest U.S. cities dominated our ranking. 

Phoenix — aptly nicknamed “Valley of the Sun” — is our solar promised land, along with other sunshine-rich cities like Los Angeles (No. 3) and El Paso, Texas (No. 10). Both Roof Viability and Energy Potential run high among these top performers.

On the other hand, cities with less solar-friendly climates might seem like poor candidates for solar power. 

However, Google’s Project Sunroof data identified extensive infrastructure in cities like New York (No. 13), Chicago (No. 48), and Indianapolis (No. 107) to support solar energy production. The proliferation of equipment dealers and installers here also suggests widespread adoption of the technology.

Except for Seattle at No. 365, Washington state’s Puget Sound region makes up nearly all of our worst 10 cities. Redmond, a Seattle suburb, placed last overall.

One caveat: “Worst” is a bit of a misnomer in this case. Clouds dominate the skies in this region much of the year, slightly diminishing solar panels’ effectiveness. However, Puget Sound residents already enjoy the nation’s most affordable electricity, nearly all of which is generated from renewable resources.

Behind the Ranking

First, we determined the factors (metrics) that are most relevant to rank the Best Cities for Solar Energy. We then assigned a weight to each factor based on its importance and grouped those factors into 7 categories:

  • Incentives
  • Roof Viability
  • Solar-Friendly Climate
  • Energy Potential
  • Equipment and Installation
  • Affordability
  • Impact

The factors making up each category, along with their weights, are listed in the table below.

For each of the 500 biggest U.S. cities, we then gathered data on each factor from the sources listed below the table. We eliminated 26 cities lacking sufficient data in a single category, resulting in a final sample size of 474 cities.

Finally, we calculated scores (out of 100 points) for each city to determine its rank in each factor, each category, and overall. A city’s Overall Score is the average of its scores across all factors and categories. The highest Overall Score ranked “Best” (No. 1) and the lowest “Worst” (No. 474). Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 474 due to ties.

the lowest “Worst” (No. 474). Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 474 due to ties.

Sources: Electricity Local, EnergySage, Google Project Sunroof, Houzz, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SolarReviews, and Yellow Pages

Final Thoughts: Make the Most of Your Solar Panels

As of 2023, some 4.5 million (out of 131 million) U.S. households have installed photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs — though our nation’s total solar capacity actually could power up to 33 million homes.

With solar panels, that means millions of homeowners are seeing their utility bills drop — all while rescuing our planet.

With a solar energy system, a typical homeowner saves 40% to 70% a year on their energy bill. 

Plus, there’s never been a better time to buy — solar panels are about $15,000 cheaper today than in 2010, not to mention all the incentives and rebates available to offset initial costs.

To help ease your transition to solar, follow these helpful tips:

Installing solar panel arrays is not an easy task. Let Roof Gnome connect you with the best solar panel and roofing professionals in your area to help you tackle your project.

Roof Gnome is part of the Home Gnome family of home services sites.

Media Resources

  • Although California dominates the U.S. solar market, our ranking shows that Arizona has significantly higher — albeit untapped — solar potential. The Grand Canyon State finished with 10 of its biggest cities in our top 25, compared with only 6 cities from the Golden State.
  • Despite fewer sunny days during the year in New York (No. 13), Chicago (No. 48), and Indianapolis (No. 107), all 3 of these cities placed in the top 10 of both total number and total square footage of solar-viable roofs.
  • 4 out of 6 New Jersey cities in our ranking tied for the 2nd-fastest time to recover solar investments — despite one of the highest net costs (No. 298 in that metric).
  • Despite relatively lower net costs for installing solar panels and fewer years to break even from a solar investment in Nashville (No. 62), Boynton Beach, Florida (No. 83), and Buena Park, California (No. 57), existing equipment dealers have very little competition here.
  • On cloudy days, solar panels can lose up to 25% of their efficiency compared with a sunny day, depending on the quality and position of the solar panels and cloud cover.
  • With relatively smaller populations, Florida cities Coral Springs (No. 87) and Homestead (No. 194) and California cities Milpitas (No. 112) and San Ramon (No. 165) have some of the lowest numbers of solar-viable roofs in our ranking. However, a significant proportion of those cities’ roofs are solar-viable.
  • Some of the best cities for solar energy also are the best to own an electric vehicle. Residents of Houston, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and San Diego, for example, have the highest potential to minimize their reliance on fossil-fuel energy.
  • Hail Alley states like Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas are vulnerable to solar panel damage. We didn’t factor that in, but Texas Triangle cities should beware.

High-resolution images of cities

Main Photo Credit: Kindel Media / Pexels / Pexels License

Richie Bernardo

Richie Bernardo is a managing editor who previously wrote about personal finance and immigration. Philippine-born, Kansas City-bred, and barbecue-fed, Richie enjoys baking, deal hunting, and binging “Ancient Aliens.”