Despite its growing popularity, solar power remains a luxury that, typically, only more affluent households can afford, due mostly to the high costs of installation.
However, recent statistics show that the technology is not completely exclusive. A greater share of lower-income households and neighborhoods are having rooftop panels installed.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released the latest edition of its annual report, Residential Solar-Adopter Income and Demographic Trends. This November 2022 edition, updated from its initial 2022 report released in February, is based on address-level data for 2.8 million residential households across the country that have installed solar on-site. The latest update includes data on systems installed through 2021.
The report reveals some unsurprising statistics. For example, the median income for solar adopters was $110,000. This is above the national average of $79,000, and confirms that households with solar are more likely to have above-average means.
However, a closer look at the results reveals that solar technology is not exclusively for the rich. Several statistics show that the average income is trending downward, indicating that solar is becoming more accessible to those in lower-income tiers.
For example, according to the report, the average household income of solar adopters in 2010 was $129,000. This represents a drop of almost $20,000 in 11 years.
Also, the median income figure reveals that while half of the nation’s households with solar have incomes above $110,000, an equal number have incomes below that level.
Looking at that lower half a little more closely, the report finds that roughly one-third of all households that installed solar in 2021 had incomes between $50,000 and $100,000. Another 15% of households had incomes below $50,000. The most well-represented income category was composed of those households with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000. They comprised roughly 18% of the total number of households that installed solar last year.
The report also finds that the share of the solar market in disadvantaged communities has been rising over time. According to Department of Energy figures, the percentage of residential solar installations in these communities has more than doubled from 5% in 2010 to 11% in 2021.
Lastly, the report finds that solar markets are also moving into less-affluent states. While roughly half of the nation’s solar adopters are in California, which is a relatively high-income state, the market for solar is growing in states like Texas and Florida, which are considered middle- and low-income states, respectively.