Residential Solar-Adopter Income and Demographic Trends: November 2022 Update

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The report describes income, demographic, and other socio-economic trends among U.S. residential rooftop solar adopters. The report is based on address-level data for roughly 2.8 million residential rooftop solar systems installed through 2021, representing 86% of all U.S. systems. With its unique size, geographic scope, and level of detail, this report is intended to serve as a foundational reference document for policy-makers, industry stakeholders, and researchers.

Key findings include the following:

  • Median solar adopter income was about $110k/year in 2021, compared to a U.S. median of about $63k/year for all households and $79k/year for all owner-occupied households
  • The degree of income skew varies significantly across all states, but all states exhibit some positive income skew, with median solar-adopter incomes ranging from 131-168% of the respective county-median income for all households
  • Notwithstanding the fact that solar adopter incomes skew high, a substantial share of adopters could be considered low-to-moderate income (LMI), with 22% of all 2021 adopters earning less than 80% of area median income, and an additional 21% between 80% and 120% of area median income.
  • Solar-adopter incomes are declining over time, with median incomes dropping from $129k in 2010 to $110k in 2021, as adoption becomes more proportionately distributed across the population and has started to broaden into low- and middle-income states since 2016.
  • Solar-adopter incomes are consistently higher for systems paired with battery storage, for host-owned systems, and for systems installed on single-family homes; higher income adopters also consistently install larger systems.
  • Solar adopters tend to live in Census Tracts not identified as “disadvantaged communities” (using the U.S. Department of Energy’s interim definitions developed March 2022), making up 11% of adopters compared to 18% of U.S. households.
  • Compared to the broader population, solar adopters tend to: identify as Non-Hispanic White, be primarily English-speaking, have higher education levels, be middle-aged, work in business and finance-related occupations, and live in higher-value homes

In conjunction with the report, Berkeley Lab has published an updated accompanying set of online data visualizations that allow users to further explore the underlying data. Berkeley Lab is also offering related analytical support to states, local agencies, and other organizations on issues related to solar adoption among low-to-moderate income households; requests for analytical support may be submitted through this online form.

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A brief summary can be viewed here

The authors recorded a webinar highlighting key findings from this study on November 17, 2022. You can view the webinar recording and presentation slides here.


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