By Ben Sigrin and Meghan Mooney

A new report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that nearly half of all the United States’ residential rooftop solar technical potential is on the dwellings of low-to-moderate income (LMI) households, representing 320 GW of potential solar capacity.

Although residential solar adoption has increased over the past decade, adoption among LMI households (defined as 80% or less of the area median income) and affordable housing providers continues to lag, prompting concerns of a green divide. Recent policy efforts across the country have taken aim at this sector, trying to reduce barriers, but progress has been slow.

Now, for the first time, data is available to help policymakers and industry stakeholders understand the true size of the market potential and where to best direct their resources. The report, which includes an interactive map, is part of a three-year research project led by NREL and supported by GRID Alternatives, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Advanced Grid Consulting. Using sophisticated mapping and modeling tools, and incorporating large data sets from diverse sources, the researchers will assess factors that influence LMI solar adoption at the individual and community level. The project was funded by the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) program.

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