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Published on October 18th, 2012 | by James Ayre


If Your Neighbor Has Solar Panels, You’re More Likely To Go Solar (Solar Power Is Contagious)

October 18th, 2012 by  

Someone is considerably more likely to install solar panels on their home if others in their area have already installed them, according to new research from Yale and New York University.

The research was done by studying different clusters of solar panel installations in California from January 2001 to December 2011. The researchers found that residents are much more likely to install solar panels if they are already installed in their zip code, and particularly if they are installed on their street.

“We looked at the influence that the number of cumulative adoptions — the number of people who already installed solar panels in a zip code — had on the probability there would be a new adoption in that zip code,” said Kenneth Gillingham, the study’s co-author and assistant professor of economics at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “Our approach controls for a variety of other possible explanations, including clustering of environmental preferences or marketing activity.”

The results were pretty significant, just 10 extra solar installations in a zip code made it 7.8% more likely that someone would install them themselves. And with just a 10% increase in the number of people within a zip code to have solar installations, there will be a 54% increase in the number of those going solar.

“These results provide clear evidence of a statistically and economically significant effect,” said Bryan Bollinger, the other co-author and assistant professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business.

The study also clearly shows what led to the increase: visibility and word-of-mouth. “If my neighbor installs a solar panel and tells me he’s saving money and he’s really excited about it, it’s likely I’ll go ahead and do the same thing,” said Gillingham. “Then there are others who’ll install because they don’t want to be one-upped by their neighbors.”

The new research was just published in the journal Marketing Science.

Source: Yale University
Image Credit: Solar panel installationย via Shutterstock

Reposted from Solar Love with permission (with image changed).

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Lilia Rhodes

    This is really very true. I remembered my friend asking me me the benefits of having solar panels at home. I asked why? He just simply said, “My neighbors are using solar panels already, and I’m planning to use it,too”. I was starting to think of having one for my home after that.

    • Ha — exactly the lines that probably millions of people have used (perhaps in diff languages) now.

      Thanks for relaying. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • There have been many studies on human behavior. The lone star trend setter is not the one that get the mass of people moving. You have to have the brave first wave followers. When the first house on your street gets panels, maybe they are just crazy and faking the benefit. But if six get them and all say they are making/saving money; I better jump in or I’ll be the last one and stick out. Then “they” will think I’m the strange one.

  • Geez….lots of people have to be critical of spelling and grammar…..some, without the slightest regard for syntax when writing in……oh well, everybody’s an editor.
    I have experimented at length regarding solar contagion, and I was VERY suprised.
    Many people, when asked if they would want to follow suit, after having a neighbor install a system, had their “personal sovereign gene” kick in…as in :”What, just because HE does something, I’m supposed to”? I have also explained a group PPA program, where if in one square mile, we could install 1/2 mw ( i.e. about 2200 panels…..55 homes, 40 panels each on average…about 10K size systems) they could have the system, w/no financial liability……funded by an investor group we can put together. Mostly, even when very articulately explained, we got the deer in the headlights look.
    Many people, after Solyndra, are even taking THAT and making “excuses”…..tough world, huh?

  • seb

    In the week following my PV installation I had branches from my honey locust tree on my front yard snapped and the young aspen from my back yard broken in two. It could be just a coincidence of course, but i don’t think so. I live in a conservative area.

  • snn

    Please spell check your articles, it makes you look a bit retarded.

    • a spell check didn’t catch that since it was correctly spelled, just the wrong option. shit happens. typos happen. i realize they have a bad effect on perception, but they happen. (and they happen on every news site in the world.)

  • Anne

    “Youโ€™re Neighbor”?

    A, come on, Nathan, you can do better than that? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As for the article, my solar panels are prominently visible and I have had them for more than a year, but none of my neighbours followed suit. What am I doing wrong?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Living in the Neitherlands?

      (yes, speeling is intentional)

  • Craig

    I went to extra effort to have 6 of my 24 panels placed on the front of my house because I figured that it would encourage others in the street. I’m please to see my reasoning vindicated.

    • Awesome! You totally rock. ๐Ÿ˜€ And I’m sure it will.

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