Accessible solar energy is a trend that keeps growing. Certainly, the sun shines every day, and theoretically, its’ energy should be available to us all. Not so, says a group of researchers Tufts University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Combining data from Google’s Project Sunroof – which includes information on more than 60 million rooftops, and almost 2 million 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, and controlling for household income and home ownership, they found that solar panels have predominantly been installed in white neighborhoods.
The study found that for the same median household income:
• Black-majority neighborhoods have installed 69% less rooftop PV than neighborhoods where no single race or ethnicity makes up the majority.
• Hispanic-majority neighborhoods have installed 30% less rooftop PV than no-majority neighborhoods. Meanwhile, white-majority neighborhoods have installed 21 percent more rooftop PV than no-majority neighborhoods.
After correcting for home ownership, white majority neighborhoods were found to have installed 37 percent more solar panels. Compared to, black- and hispanic-majority neighborhoods were found to have installed 61 percent and 45 percent less solar panels, respectively.
Study’s lead author explains
Deborah Sunter, Ph.D., a professor of mechanical engineering at the School of Engineering at Tufts says:
“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.”
“Solar energy can be a resource for climate protection and social empowerment.”
Additionally, the study’s authors says that more research is needed to help determine the root causes of the differences. Furthermore, they see their findings as important motivation for developing better and more inclusive energy infrastructure policy and outcomes.
Says Daniel Kammen, Ph.D., former science envoy for the U. S. State Department, and current professor and chair of the Energy and Resources Group, professor in the Goldman School of Policy, and professor of Nuclear Engineering at UC Berkeley, “Our work illustrates that while solar can be a powerful tool for climate protection and social equity, a lack of access or a lack of outreach to all segments of society can dramatically weaken the social benefit.”
Solar power is a powerful tool for climate protection, and the solar industry is growing astronomically. Moreover, solar power needs to grow in ways that make it available to everyone, regardless of race, income, or location. After all, accessible solar energy should be a must.
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