Posted by: Peter Black | December 18, 2008

Installed Solar Panels in California: How's your zip code doing?

California Solar Installation by Zip Code

California has installed enough Photovoltaics to fully support the energy needs of 200,000 people.

Map 1 (Interactive):
solar energy development in California


California, long a leader in environmental innovation and implementation, has passed some recent laws that mandate greenhouse gas emissions reductions. One way California can achieve that goal is to install solar panels (also known as photovoltaics, or PV for short) on the rooftops of homes, businesses, and everywhere else conceivable.

To date, California has installed some 280 Megawatts of PV power that is connected to the electricity grid.

On average, a megawatt powers about 240-300 homes, or enough for 700 people. So California has enough installed PV to fully support the energy needs of about 200,000 people.

Here’s how the map should be interpreted:
– The orange circles show the total PV output in a given zip code.
– The heat map displays the per capita PV output.
– looking at both of these variables you can see the places that have done a lot of PV installation and those that haven’t.

For example, I see some disparities between the richer and the poorer zip codes, a fact created by the high cost of installation and materials.

But that’s probably not the only story, so have a look! What do you see?

P.S. I’ll add the the zip code to the mouseover in the next iteration…



  1. This is a very interesting map. I find that my home city of Lafayette is very high up on the scale. We surpass Oakland. We have about 28000 in population. What I also notice is the lack of solar panel installation at the military bases like Pendleton and Edwards. It seems there should be huge numbers of panels throughout the deserts and central valleys of California bringing us all solar power. Travelling by train through France, Belgium and the Netherlands, we notices large solar panels in the fields. Why not here, Mr. Obama?

  2. Here’s a very good article about this issue!

  3. It is interesting that while people have been installing solar panels for years in California, the data on where and how much remains somewhat a mystery. This geographic assessment is a really valuable way to analyze where significant activity has taken place, but it is also apparent that some generation exists that is not displayed.

    In addition, tools like this serve 2 key missions – 1) engage Californians to take part in finding solutions to foreign oil dependence and climate change by showing them where their neighbors are outperforming, and 2) show law and policy makers how much further we need to go in both installation capacity and information sharing.

  4. Question: when the map tells me there is no data, does that mean there are no PVs in that zip code cluster, or that there really is no data? (Probable answer: either) For example, we have an office in Delano in Kern County, and it appears there are no solar panels there (93215 zip); we hope to be the first in town!

    Luke Cole
    San Francisco

  5. Luke,
    That’s a great question. This map only shows data the California Energy Commission has collected. Their efforts have been great, and the data is in good shape, but there are likely places where data hasn’t been fully collected. In addition, the solar panels depicted here are only what’s connected to the greater energy grid.

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