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Solar For the 99%? Two Thirds of California Solar Installs Are in Median-Income Zip Codes

Think solar is only for the 1%? Not so fast. New data from California shows that two thirds of solar PV installations from 2009 to 2011 were in zip codes with median household incomes between $40,000 and $84,000, according to analysis from PV Solar Report and SunRun.

Solar PV is often criticized as an “eco-chic” technology only available for the richest, most fashionable greenies. Of course, if you’ve followed the solar industry (or invested in a system of your own), you know that is not true.

Yes, the upfront costs of investing in a system can still be prohibitive, particularly in states without good incentive programs. But the falling cost of equipment combined with innovative “solar services” and group purchasing programs can actually make solar energy cheaper than grid-based electricity in some states.

The installation trends in the industry — the emergence of point-of-sale financing, growth in plug-and-play systems, dramatic improvements in hardware and electronics, and better installation techniques — are making the technology accessible to a wide range of consumers.

We should be careful not to make sweeping conclusions about this California-specific data. But let’s remember, this is a solar market that just passed the 1-GW installation mark, a feat only accomplished by a few other countries.

And as it’s often said: “So goes California, so goes the nation.”

This article was originally published by Climate Progress and was reprinted with permission.

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I am a reporter with ClimateProgress.org, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in to...

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