Characterizing local rooftop solar adoption inequity in the US
Residential rooftop solar is slated to play a significant role in the changing US electric grid in the coming decades. However, concerns have emerged that the benefits of rooftop solar deployment are inequitably distributed across demographic groups. Previous work has highlighted inequity in national solar adopter deployment and income trends. We leverage a dataset of US solar adopter household income estimates—unique in its size and resolution—to analyze differences in adoption equity at the local level and identify those conditions that yield more equitable solar adoption, with implications for policy strategies to reduce inequities in solar adoption. The solar inequities observed at the national and state levels also exist at more granular levels, but not uniformly so; some US census tracts exhibit less solar inequity than others. Some demographic, solar system, and market characteristics robustly lead to more equitable solar adoption. Our findings suggest that while solar adoption inequity is frequently attributed to the relatively high costs of solar adoption, costs may become less relevant as solar prices decline. Results also indicate that racial diversity and education levels affect solar adoption patterns at a local level. Finally, we find that solar adoption is more equitable in census tracts served by specific types of installers. Future research and policy can explore ways to leverage these findings to accelerate the transition to equitable solar adoption.