RELEASE: Middle-Class Homeowners Are a Major Force in Driving Rooftop Solar in Emerging Markets

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released an analysis of the residential solar markets in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. While these states are developing strong residential solar markets, the number of residential installations in each of these states is minimal compared to the more established solar markets in Arizona, California, and New Jersey.

Last year, the Center for American Progress released an issue brief titled “Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class,” which found that rooftop solar systems were being overwhelmingly adopted in middle-class neighborhoods with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000 in Arizona, California, and New Jersey. CAP’s latest paper on rooftop solar adoption explores the income make-up of rooftop solar adopters in the developing markets of Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York.

Interestingly, these emerging residential solar markets are also seeing a significant amount of residential solar installations in middle-class neighborhoods. New York and Massachusetts have followed similar rooftop solar adoption trends to more developed markets, with more than 80 percent of residential solar installations in New York and nearly 70 percent of residential installations in Massachusetts occurring in ZIP codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000. Maryland, however, has seen a significant but slower uptake of rooftop solar among middle-class households, as 45 percent of its residential solar installations have occurred within neighborhoods in the $40,000 to $90,000 median income range.

“Smart solar policies and programs have made solar technologies more accessible and have empowered households across the country to invest in a clean energy future, but more could be done to ensure that rooftop solar is reaching a greater share of middle- and low-income Americans,” said Mari Hernandez, Research Associate on Energy Policy at CAP.

CAP’s analysis of three emerging solar markets shows that middle-class homeowners make up a significant percentage of rooftop solar customers, especially in Massachusetts and New York. Regulators and policymakers in these two states and Maryland, as well as across the country, should be thinking about ways to provide more access to solar and other distributed technologies, rather than scaling back good solar programs and policies. Effective residential solar policies expand access to middle- and low-income residents while also increasing the use of clean, distributed power that can reduce carbon emissions and add value to the grid.

Read the analysis: Rooftop Solar Adoption in Emerging Residential Markets by Mari Hernandez

To speak with an expert on this topic, contact Anne Shoup at  or 202.481.7146.