Solar: Finally, Fresno reaches the top of a positive list

Fresno ranks fourth in solar capacity in California, according to a survey released this week.

"California Solar Cities 2012," a report compiled by Environment California. Taking the No. 1 spot in capacity is San Diego with 37 megawatts, followed by Los Angeles with 36 megawatts and San Jose with 31 megawatts. Fresno has 22 megawatts and San Francisco 17 megawatts.

The ranking remains the same for the top three in terms of number of installations with Fresno and San Francisco swapping places and Fresno landing in the No. 5 spot with 2,146.

"California has just begun to tap into the vast potential of solar energy," the report's authors write. "Governments, utilities and the public should continue to work together toward a clean energy future."

Many believe the cost of solar power will reach parity with fossil fuels in the next few years. Some studies say that point already has been reached because of declining materials costs.

In a interview with Bloomberg TV, the chief executive of Suntech Power Holdings Co., considered the world's largest photovoltaic panel maker, says the cost of generating electricity from the sun will compete with conventional power by 2015.

“Solar is getting so cheap,” Zhengrong Shi, Suntech CEO, says. “We believe by 2015, there will be around 50 percent of countries that reach grid-parity.”

The San Joaquin Valley is uniquely positioned to be a solar powerhouse with its available land, existing electrical grid and ready work force. Its potential has led researchers at University of California Merced to call it Solar Valley.

Fresno usually graces the upper tiers of lists it would prefer not to be associated with. Perhaps the most notorious is that produced by the Brookings Institution, showing Fresno atop the list of cities with concentrated poverty. A more recent ranking showed some decline but it wasn't enough to drop Fresno from the top.