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The Sunetric Blog

The Middle Class Is Driving Residential Solar Installations

Monday, December 23, 2013

Perhaps you’ve heard the claim that only the wealthiest of Americans can afford to install solar panels on their homes. Utilities companies and skeptics alike have promoted this idea for a few years now for their own selfish reasons. There’s just one problem with it:

They’re wrong.

New research by the Center for American Progress puts lie to this claim by demonstrating that not only is the middle class driving the installation of residential rooftop solar, but all Americans regardless of income level are interested in rooftop solar power.

To reach these conclusions, the Center for American Progress collected data from Arizona, California, and New Jersey, three states leading the nation in solar deployment. By analyzing the median household incomes of the ZIP codes that experienced solar installations in these three states, the study found the following:

  1. In all three states, homeowners living in ZIP codes with median incomes ranging between $40,000 and $90,000 comprise at least 60% of all solar installs.
  2. The distribution of solar installations across all income levels is similar to the overall population distributions in each state.
  3. Since 2009, the strongest growth in solar installations has been in neighborhoods with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000.

So let’s take these findings one at a time: The first finding says that in Arizona, California, and New Jersey more than half of all solar installations are middle class homeowners. The second finding states that people of all income levels are installing solar power in their homes. The third finding states that middle-class Americans are the most eager to install solar panels. A survey taken recently by Market Strategies echoes this third point, with 61% of respondents across all income levels, including households with incomes under $25,000, saying they were interested in purchasing a home solar system.

A large reason for the increasing installation of solar panels among the middle class is due to a single policy: net metering. Simply put, net metering is how your home or company can utilize every single watt of energy produced by your solar PV system and how you can completely eliminate your electric bill. Think of it as a bank. On bright, sunny days when your solar panels generate more power than your house needs, net metering allows you to deposit this excess energy into the grid. Come nightfall, when your house will need more electricity than it did during the day, you can withdraw that same amount of energy you deposited at no charge. If, after a month, you deposited more than you withdrew, your utility gives you a credit. It’s that simple.

Homeowners in Hawaii, with its abundant sunshine and dependence on imported energy, are perfectly poised to take advantage of rooftop solar and net metering. And that’s all households. Given Hawaii’s [second-highest rate of residential solar adoption globally](]—nearly 3% of all households, it’s clearly not only the top 1% by household income, and likely not only those in the top 5%, who have added solar in Hawaii.

So don’t believe the skeptics. Solar power is for all Americans, not just the wealthy. Contact Sunetric to find out how solar power and net metering can help you eliminate your electricity bill for good!