Study Looks at Low-Income Housing’s Rooftop Solar Potential
A recent study published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that nearly half of all the residential rooftop solar potential in the United States is available atop low- to moderate-income households, representing a 320 gigawatt opportunity.
The study looked at the divide between current rooftop solar adoption in the United States and the widening potential for further adoption. Specifically, the study found that rooftop solar across the country was concentrated, not unsurprisingly, in higher-income households. One of the key findings from the study was the fact that rooftop solar potential is substantial in most states, with high-population states like Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas (among others) providing significant solar potential.
The study finds that the majority of low-income residential potential doesn’t reside on single-family, owner-occupied houses, however, which means that the potential solar capacity doesn’t conform to conventional rooftop solar models. Specifically, according to the research, the solar potential serving low- to moderate-income (LMI) households exist on renter-occupied and multifamily buildings rather than single-family owner-occupied buildings. In fact, if only single-family, owner-occupied roof space was used, 60 percent of U.S. counties would have enough solar electricity to offset a third of LMI electricity consumption. However, if all residential building roof space was used, regardless of economic situation, 99 percent of counties would have sufficient potential to offset at least a third of LMI electricity consumption.
Including multifamily and renter-occupied buildings dramatically increases LMI solar potential by county. The final finding from the research, and one that’s not unsurprising given what we’ve already seen, is that if all roof space types are used for rooftop solar—single-family owner-occupied, single-family renter-occupied, multifamily owner-occupied, and multifamily renter-occupied—solar generation can then technically meet most electrical consumption for all income groups.