By Kelcy Pegler Jr., Solar Power World Contributor
As a residential solar company, one of the biggest misconceptions we hear is that solar panels are only for the wealthy. Early solar systems were expensive to manufacture and install. As a result, early adopters of solar power had higher incomes in to afford the high expense. Thanks to a range of factors, however, that circumstance has changed quickly. The new reality is that the vast majority of our clients are now middle-income wage earners, living in neighborhoods where the median income does not exceed six figures.
According to the Center for American Progress, more than 1,460 MW of residential solar installations have been installed across the country since 2000, with more than 80% of that capacity added in the past four years. The majority of these homeowners have annual incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000. These statistics are the result of variables that include new financing models and declining costs that all have led to this shift in residential solar demographics.
These homeowners are taking advantage of an increasingly friendly renewable energy climate in more and more states. In fact, the advent of new finance structures, like third party leasing, has been a key incentive for homeowners in many states. This model allows homeowners to install solar rooftop panels for little to no upfront costs and lock in long term lower rates. This has led to a rapid change in the profile of the typical homeowner that chooses to install solar PV.
The adoption of new solar PV technology has also been one of the reasons residential solar has grown exponentially over the past decade. The decreasing cost of solar panels, equipment and installation is making the distributed solar model a cost effective way to lower energy costs. This has also lead to more middle-class homeowners seeing the increasing benefits of rooftop solar panels in the form of shrinking energy bills and clean, renewable energy production.
New advances in technology have also led to an increase in the number of solar installations in urban communities, and this trend is expected to continue. Improving battery storage options along with cheaper solar panels will allow for more energy production in a smaller square footage of rooftop space. We anticipate that urban communities will soon be able to capitalize more on solar power as new technologies emerge.
Looking ahead, indicators point toward the continuing trend of increasing adoption of solar energy by middle-income homeowners, as well as increases for low income housing through special programs designed to accelerate solar adoption in housing projects. As costs come down and homeowners seek out long term price stability, the future looks bright for home solar.
Kelcy Pegler Jr. was co-founder and CEO of Roof Diagnostics Solar (RDS), which is now NRG Home Solar. He is a regular Solar Power World contributor.