Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released an analysis of solar installation data from Arizona, California, and New Jersey that found that solar installations are overwhelmingly occurring in middle-class neighborhoods.
Interestingly, this finding is in contrast with the current utility industry narrative that distributed solar is mainly being adopted by wealthy customers. Concerned by the threat that rooftop solar’s rapid growth poses to traditional utility business models, some utility executives have used this claim to support a rising desire within the industry to alter existing solar programs and policies. The utility argument is that through solar policies such as net metering, middle- and low-income customers who cannot afford to go solar are subsidizing the wealthy customers who can. But this analysis shows that rooftop solar is not just being adopted by the wealthy.
“Rooftop solar has become an important energy resource for the middle class,” said Mari Hernandez, Research Associate at the Center for American Progress. “Smart solar policies such as net metering have helped to expand access to clean, renewable solar power to middle-class homeowners.”
The analysis of the solar installation data from Arizona, California, and New Jersey found that:
- More than 60 percent of rooftop solar installations are occurring in ZIP codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000.
- The distribution of residential solar installations across income levels is similar to the population distribution in each region.
- In Arizona, the highest number of installations occurred in ZIP codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $50,000.
- In California and New Jersey, homeowners who live in ZIP codes with median incomes ranging from $70,000 to $80,000 have installed the most solar power systems.
- The areas that experienced the most year-over-year growth from 2011 to 2012 had median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $50,000 in both Arizona and California and $30,000 to $40,000 in New Jersey.
Read the analysis: Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class by Mari Hernandez
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