(Jan. 10, 2019)--Although the popularity of rooftop solar panels has skyrocketed because of their benefits to consumers and the environment, the deployment has predominantly occurred in white neighborhoods, even after controlling for household income and home ownership, according to a study by researchers from Tufts University and the University of California, Berkeley, published today in the journal Nature Sustainability.
While solar energy is a popular, cost-effective, sustainable source of energy that can be deployed at large, utility-scale projects as well as on individual rooftops, deployment of rooftop solar has been uneven.
"Solar power is crucial to meeting the climate goals presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but we can and need to deploy solar more broadly so that it benefits all people, regardless of race and ethnicity," said Deborah Sunter, Ph.D., a professor of mechanical engineering at the School of Engineering at Tufts, and the study's lead author.
Researchers combined data from Google's Project Sunroof on existing rooftop solar installations across the United States with demographic data, including household income, home ownership, and ethnicity and race, from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
"Advances in remote sensing and in 'big data' science enable us not only to take a unique look at where solar is deployed but also to combine that with census and demographic data to chart who gets to benefit from the solar energy revolution," said Sergio Castellanos, Ph.D., a research faculty at UC Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group and the California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE).
The study found that for the same median household income: