Top 10 Cleantech Cities In The United States

Score a victory for San Jose over its flashy, sophisticated neighbor up the Peninsula.

In a comprehensive new ranking of U.S. cleantech leadership, the sprawling capital of Silicon Valley edged out San Francisco for top spot on a list dominated by the West Coast. The sector research and advising firm Clean Edge said its rankings, released on Tuesday, were based on “nearly two dozen metrics such as hybrid vehicles, certified green buildings, and clean-tech venture capital investments.”

Clean Edge Metro Index

image via Clean Edge

San Jose barely edged San Francisco for No. 1 on the list, by 82.2 to 81.4 points, thanks to its top ranking in concentration of cleantech venture capital and its high scores in patent activity, university technology development and electric vehicle and hybrid-EV deployment. San Francisco was solid across the board, Clean Edge said, “ranking in the top 10 in almost every Metro Index indicator.”

It’s important to note that Clean Edge didn’t base its population-adjusted scoring on what’s going on strictly within the city limits of the 50 cities it ranked; it looked at “metropolitan statistical areas,” a tool used by the U.S. Census Bureau for dividing up regions of economic activity with populations greater than 1 million. That slices the Bay Area, which is arguably a cohesive unit of its own, into the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont MSA and the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA, giving San Jose a lot of prime tech terrain, including cleantech hotspots like Palo Alto (think: Tesla and Stanford University) and Mountain View (where Google makes its home).

Clean Edge Metro Index

image via Clean Edge

San Francisco can take solace, perhaps, in the fact that earlier this year Cleantech Group named it “Cleantech Capital of North America.” Plus, it has the Giants.

The drop-off to No. 3 was precipitous, but once again it was a West Coast city, as Portland nabbed the bronze with a score of 64.8 points. The Rose City led in concentration of LEED projects and EV charging stations per capita – we knew that – and was helped by the fact that Portland General Electric operates the country’s leading green power purchasing program.

“West Coast metro regions, which have been at the forefront of regional clean-tech efforts and have strong state support, dominate the inaugural U.S. Metro Clean Tech Index,” Clean Edge Managing Director Ron Pernick said in a statement. “But other regions show significant strengths and assets, from Chicago and Washington D.C. to Austin and Salt Lake City, representing the diversity of clean-tech leadership and activities across the nation.”

Sacramento was fourth and Seattle fifth, giving the West Coast a clean sweep of the top five spots on the list. Denver and then Los Angeles followed, and finally at No. 8, with Washington, D.C., a city east of the Mississippi made the lsit. Boston and Austin, Texas, rounded out the top 10.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.