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Clean Power Rooftop-Solar-Income

Published on October 28th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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US Solar Growth Driven By Middle-Class Americans

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October 28th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan 

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

rooftop solar panels middle classPhoto Credit: KN6KS / Foter / CC BY-NC

One of the most common solar-related myths out there is that it’s mostly just the rich who are going solar. We’ve seen indication in the past that this stereotype was not true. However, a study just released by the Center for American Progress (CAP) is certainly the most recent and most comprehensive study on the matter that I’ve seen.

“The CAP report used residential solar installation data from the Arizona Public Service (APS), California Solar Initiative (CSI) and New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program (NJCEP) databases to examine solar adoption trends across income levels in the three largest U.S. solar markets – Arizona, California and New Jersey,” Mari Hernandez of CAP wrote on Think Progress this week.

The study, Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class, found that solar installations “are overwhelmingly occurring in middle-class neighborhoods that have median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000.” Over 60% of installations were in such neighborhoods. That is surprising even to me. That is very clearly the middle class.

And the areas with the strongest growth were actually in lower ranges, the “lower middle class” or even “working class” range. Mari Hernandez wrote: “The areas that experienced the most 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.”

Rooftop Solar IncomeImage Credit: Center for American Progress

So, the next time you see someone write (or hear them say) that it’s just the rich who are going solar, send them here.

Also, if you had it in your head that solar was too expensive, that you’re in the middle class — maybe even the working class — and can’t afford it, maybe it’s time to wake up and see that the middle and working classes are driving solar power growth today. Maybe it’s time to get a solar quote!

It makes sense, too. The working and middle classes are more sensitive to electricity bill increase. We’re more affected by that day of the month when we have to send a check to the electric company. Solar power is a light in the smog that can pull us out of that codependency. Saving $600 or even thousands of dollars a year means more to us than it does to the über rich. That’s why thousands upon thousands of middle-class and working-class Americans are switching to solar power.

Join the crowd. Go solar.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • JamesWimberley

    Australia shows the same pattern: http://solar.org.au/blog/news-2/news-com-au-far-from-being-middle-class-welfare-solar-panel-uptake-is-surprisingly-strong/. I’ve not seen an income breakdown for Germany, but it would be impossible to reach 1.2 million solar households (2% of the total) just with the 1% (end 2012, source BSW), an anecdotally installation is supported by village and suburban communities. The rich everywhere are more concerned with appearance and fashion, pressures which may work differently in Beverly Hills, Antibes and the Hamptons.

  • Senlac

    Thank you Zachary, looks like solar is truly Democratic. The middle class needs a break, and they have found it in solar. Add some value to the home which might be close to being under water.

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