Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class

Author:  Hernandez, Mari
Organization:  Center for American Progress
Report Date: 

This Center for American Progress brief finds that the recent increase in solar rooftop installations are occurring primarily in middle-class neighborhoods by relatively affluent homeowners.  


Key Take-Aways: 
  • Rooftop solar systems were bought overwhelmingly by the middle class, with incomes ranging $40,000 - $90,000.
  • The trend of middle class homeowners leading rooftop solar installations will have impacts on utilities across the country, as they consider their solar programs and rate structures, and revisions of those programs to benefit not just the wealthy, but lower and middle class people.
  • Although rooftop solar systems account for less than one-quarter of one percent of electricity produced in the United States, utilities are beginning to see how solar could eventually affect their business models as it continues to be adopted.
Key Facts: 
  • Since 1,460 megawatts of residential solar installations have been deployed throughout the Country, and more than 80% of this capacity has been added in the past 4 years.
  • In 2012 alone, rooftop solar installations reached 488 megawatts, a 62% increase over 2011 installations and nearly double the installed capacity in 2010.
  • Some of the highest numbers of cumulative installations occurred in lower median incomes, such as the $ 30,000 - $ 50,000 in Arizona and $ 70,000 - $ 80,000 in California.