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Solar Installations Increase Across the U.S – But Who is Responsible?

Homeowners across the United States have begun a rooftop solar revolution. Since 2000, more than 1,460 megawatts of residential solar installations have been installed across the country, and more than 80 percent of that capacity was added in the past four years. In 2012 alone, rooftop solar installations reached 488 megawatts, a 62 percent increase over 2011 installations and nearly double the installed capacity added in 2010.

But who is responsible for this increase in solar installations? One of the most common solar-related myths out there is that wealthy residents are behind the solar movement. We’ve seen indication in the past that this stereotype is 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.

“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.

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.”

So there you have it! Those responsible for the growth in solar energy are middle class residents. It makes sense, too. The working and middle classes are more sensitive
to electricity bill increase. It’s these people that are more affected by fluctuating electric costs.

Saving $600 or even thousands of dollars a year means more to the working middle class than it does to the wealthy. That’s why thousands upon thousands of middle-class and working-class Americans are switching to solar power.

Join the crowd. Go solar.