Top Cities for Solar Energy in Arizona (2021)
Solar energy is a great way for homeowners to curb their dependence on traditional utilities, slashing or even eliminating monthly electric bills and lessening their environmental impact. For those who live in the Sun Belt, solar power can be especially advantageous. As such, it should come as no surprise that Arizona is one of the top states for solar installation.
In fact, data from the Solar Energy Industries Association reveals that Arizona ranks No. 5 in the nation for total solar installations. The question is, what are the top cities for solar in Arizona? In this article, we'll present our comprehensive rankings.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Arizona
To determine Arizona's top cities for solar energy, EcoWatch analyzed solar generation data from the Energy Information Administration, maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America.
After synthesizing these data points, we've determined the following places to be the top 10 cities for solar in Arizona:
- Camp Verde
Phoenix isn't just Arizona's leader in solar installation — it's also one of the top solar cities in the entire country. According to the Shining Cities report, Phoenix is ranked No. 8 in the nation in terms of total watts of solar energy installed per capita. That puts it just behind Las Vegas (Nevada's top solar city) and about equal to Riverside (one of the top cities for solar in California).
This desert town outside of Phoenix is known for its luxurious resorts. It's a great destination for golfing or for getting pampered at the spa. According to NREL data, there are plenty of rooflines that make it just perfect for solar panel installation.
Beautiful Tucson is another go-to for leisure and recreation. Because of its closer proximity to the equator, Tucson has one of the highest annual solar power generation potentials in the state — and this sun-saturated city has made an admirable commitment to solar power.
Flagstaff is another Arizona city that gets plenty of sun exposure throughout the year, making it ideally positioned for solar installation. Flagstaff City Hall even has solar panels installed on its south-facing facade, which generate a small portion of the building's energy and serve as a good sign of support for residents.
Positioned next to the Colorado River on the U.S.-Mexico border, Yuma consistently tops lists of the sunniest cities on Earth. In fact, it even holds a Guinness World Record for "most sunshine." Yuma's community has embraced the benefits of clean, renewable energy, but the city still has a lot of untapped potential, with an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar according to NREL.
Located outside of Phoenix, Tempe is a great place to soak up some sun, and many homeowners have taken advantage of that fact, installing robust, residential solar systems. Tempe is also one of the cities in the 2021 Arizona Solar Challenge, which means its residents are working to help the state realize its commitment to be carbon-free by 2050.
Another city in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, Glendale is rapidly growing. And as its population expands, so does its commitment to solar. NREL's maps show the city has more than 20,000 buildings suitable for solar panels and some of the state's highest potentials for both solar power capacity and generation.
Camp Verde, located in the center of the state between Phoenix and Flagstaff, is another town that's well-known for outdoor recreation and festivities. Naturally, it's also a pretty good place to harness the natural energy of the sun.
Just west of Camp Verde, residents of Prescott have put their sun-soaked rooftops to good use and given the city an admirable reputation for solar installation. There is also a new solar facility being developed in the area, which will be able to provide clean, renewable energy to over 20,000 homes.
This Phoenix suburb is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. As it blossoms, its commitment to solar energy grows. In fact, the city was recently chosen as the site of the first U.S.-owned lithium-ion battery plant thanks to its proximity to a vibrant solar industry.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
As you consider your own possible investment in solar power, it's important to keep in mind that solar energy is more viable in some places than in others. With that said, what makes a city or town especially primed to embrace solar energy?
There are a couple of factors to consider. The obvious one is sun exposure. Places that have consistent sunlight throughout the seasons are always going to be better bets for solar installation. Luckily, most Arizona cities don't struggle with sunshine.
The other factor is local utility costs. In places where electricity costs are high, the value of solar energy is more pronounced. But if local electrical costs are low, then the benefits of going solar are comparatively modest.
Average Arizona Energy Costs
According to the Energy Industries Association, the average monthly electricity cost in Arizona is $126.09. This is considerably higher than the average in neighboring states; in Utah, for example, the average monthly cost for electricity is just $75. The high cost of electric energy makes Arizona a sweet spot to embrace the benefits of solar power. It is also worth noting that Arizona's average monthly electrical consumption is higher than the U.S. average, which is about $115 per month.
Arizona Solar Tax Incentives
Solar energy can help homeowners save money in more ways than one. Not only can it cut electric bills, but in many places, there are significant tax incentives, as well. These can make the cost of solar panels significantly less impactful on your wallet.
Arizona has some of the most helpful solar tax incentives in the entire country. There are a couple that are especially worth knowing about:
- Residential Arizona solar tax credit: This credit reimburses you 25% of the cost of your panels, up to $1,000. You can claim this credit on your personal income tax returns.
- Equipment tax exemption: You do not have to pay any sales tax when you buy solar panels or other installation-related equipment in Arizona.
- Property tax exemption: Solar panels will increase your property value, but this exemption makes sure that this doesn't factor into the property taxes you pay. In Arizona, you won't be taxed higher because of your solar installation.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
These tax incentives are nice, but keep in mind that there is also a federal solar tax credit, available to all Americans, that currently reduces the cost of your solar system by 26%. This can be compounded with the savings mentioned above to make it that much more affordable to go solar.
Keep in mind, however, that in 2023, this credit will be reduced to 22%, and there is currently no credit available in 2024 or beyond.
Arizona Solar Regulations
One of the downsides of Arizona's solar energy scene is that the state itself has a dicey history of passing anti-renewables laws, some of them as recent as 2018. Such laws essentially allow utility companies to ignore clean energy mandates, or to receive only the most minimal fines when they do so. And yet, other laws mandate that utility companies make a considerable investment in solar power.
From a regulative standpoint, Arizona is thorny, at best… but that should not stop homeowners and business owners from embracing the benefits of solar power.