The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

If Solar is Contagious, Can Utilities Help Spread the Bug?

You may have heard it before, but it is worth mentioning again: In residential communities, solar is contagious. But a recent study, "Peer Effects in the Diffusion of Solar Photovoltaic Panels," conducted by Bryan Bollinger of the NYU Stern School of Business and Kenneth Gillingham of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, published in December sheds some new light on the phenomenon.

The report confirms that, “there is a positive, statistically significant, causal effect of previous nearby installations on a household’s decision to adopt solar panels…A one percent increase in the zip code installed base leads to approximately a one percent increase in the zip code adoption rate.” And at the street level, the study found that a one percent increase in installed solar leads to a nine percent increase in the street adoption rate.  Those numbers add up.

John Farrell of Energy Self-Reliant States developed a timeline based on Vote Solar’s Adam Browning’s recent study on the subject.

If you start with a neighborhood with 25 solar installations, where it was 100 days between the 24th and 25th installation, this peer pressure effect will reduce the time between installations to just 10 days by the 250th PV project. Of course, this process takes a while to unfold.  In fact, if solar PV was being installed only once every 100 days at the outset, the peer pressure effect will take over 15 years to reduce the time between neighborhood installs to 10 days. 

Browning responded to Farrell’s virulent findings: “I would note that the current strain (solar expensivus) is not as virulent as future strain (solar cheapus). Minnesotans are expected to have low resistance — we are talking major epidemic levels of contagion.” 

The NYU/Yale report goes on to mention companies that take advantage of these statistics, specifically SolarCity. “For example, one of the strategies employed by SolarCity (the largest installer in California) involves finding one or two vocal solar advocates in a neighborhood and giving the entire neighborhood a slightly lower price if enough adoptions are made within that neighborhood.” Other companies post signs that increase the visibility of the installations.

Since these companies are obviously building on this encouraging trend, would it make sense for utilities to get involved, as well?

The report also detailed results from a survey that concluded 52% of participating consumers installed solar panels for financial reasons. If the majority of customers are trying to save money on their electric bill, many may first look to their utility for answers. 

PG&E may be on the right track in California. As a decoupled utility, PG&E actually benefits when its customers use less energy or go completely off-grid. The company recently invested $61 million in SolarCity and $100 million in SunRun, another solar leasing company. Despite being a decoupled utility, PG&E still gains a hefty profit each year of around $16 billion.

To further its efforts, PG&E also takes advantage of the solar contagion by establishing a “Solar Champion” program in different neighborhoods. According to its website, the course, “An all-day course intended to equip students with the general training necessary to communicate the Go Solar message in their respective communities.” Through this program, certain members of each community participate in training sessions that educate them on how to be a solar advocate and promote solar to their neighbors. In addition to its “Solar Champion” course, PG&E also offers an array of live classes and workshops on such topics as system basics for grid-tied applications, site analysis and system sizing. Webinars and online classes are being planned for the near future.  

One the east coast, Constellation Energy partnered with Astrum Solar offer solar leasing to its customers in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in late September. Astrum installs and maintains the panels while Constellation retains the SRECs the panels produce to meet state requirements. This method satisfies the majority of customers who simply want to save money. “Leasing can sharply reduce the upfront costs for solar, and in this economy that's an important consideration," said Mark Huston, head of Constellation Energy's retail business in a press release. “For qualified residential customers whose homes meet the requirements for sun exposure and roof area, solar can have a considerable impact on reducing their electricity costs."

No matter the case, it seems as though the residential solar contagion is blossoming, and more utilities may want to take advantage and spread the bug. 

RELATED ARTICLES

Renewable Energy Finance

Clean Energy ETFs Are on a Tear

Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg Green investing used to be synonymous with losing money. But while the S&P 500 Index is up 2 percent this year, and the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 5 percent, clean energy ETFs have double-digit re...

Wheels, Towers and Trees: Unconventional Renewable Energy Technologies in the Pipeline

Andrew Williams, International Correspondent A number of companies around the world are developing novel technologies in an effort to grab a slice of the global renewable energy market.  Although many of these technologies are simple incremental improvements to e...
UK Parliament Clean Energy Leaders

UK Government Names Clean Energy Cabinet Members

David Appleyard, Contributing Editor With the UK general election now over and a majority Conservative Party government in place, the re-elected Prime Minister David Cameron has now named key members of the government charged with steering the UK’s clean energ...
Microgrids

Coast to Coast and Across the Electric System, Microgrids Provide Benefits to All

Dick Munson, Environmental Defense Fund At the most obvious level, microgrids could disrupt today’s utilities and their regulated-monopoly business model, because they challenge the centralized paradigm. In a nutshell, microgrids are localized power grids that ha...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

CA Wine Industry's 2015 Solar Update- WEBINAR

Proceeds from event registration will go to the CA Sustainable Win...

Energy Security: Opportunity Power with the Sunny Boy Secure Power ...

Wouldn’t it be great to have a grid-tied inverter that could still...

COMPANY BLOGS

EU PVSEC 2014 extends its Scope

Added focus on application and policy topicsAbstracts for conference con...

EU PVSEC 2014: Call for Papers Receives Great Response

More than 1,500 contributions apply for presentation in AmsterdamScienti...

Get Into Your Prospect's Shoes

    It may sound simple, but one of the best strategies for d...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS