Back to top

Kaleigh Hill

Kaleigh Hill
Project Title: 
The Drivers of and Barriers to Residential Solar Adoption
Program Year: 
Resource Economics
Rong Rong

The adoption of residential solar technology is critical given its potential to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses and their detrimental environmental effects. Residential solar adoption has grown significantly, reaching 19 GW nationally in 2020, enough to power about 3.6 million homes. However, there is still significant need for expansion. The Biden Administration aims to achieve carbon free electricity production by 2035, and net zero carbon emissions from the economy by 2050. My research project investigated the drivers of and barriers to residential solar adoption, and how these factors differ among solar owners and lessees, in order to better inform incentive programs and renewable energy policy. A literature review of relevant articles published since 2000 was completed to determine the key adoption factors for residential solar technology. I then conducted secondary analysis using Massachusetts survey data of solar owners and lessees to further explore these factors.
Key results of the literature review and analysis centered on demographics, environmental preferences, risk preferences, and peer effects and social norms. Households that adopt solar technology tend to be well educated, wealthy, environmentally conscious, and to have household heads who are older. These characteristics were especially prevalent among adopters who chose to own rather than lease their panels. Risk preference is also an important factor in solar adoption decisions. Self-assigned risk ratings provided through survey responses suggested that owners and lessees tend to have similar risk rating distributions, with most adopters in each category claiming a low tolerance for risk. However, experimental data gathered from the same adopters indicates greater risk aversion is correlated with the decision to lease solar panels. Solar adopters were also heavily influenced by their peer’s solar technology decisions, with the majority of adopters knowing 1-5 peers to have previously adopted solar technology. Further survey research is in progress to investigate claims from the literature that cannot be investigated using the existing survey data including the role of race, housing characteristics (age, size, location, roof orientation), home ownership, and novelty seeking behavior.