Solar Builder

JUL-AUG 2018

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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IN THE NEWS Research shows nearly half of U.S. residential rooftop solar potential is currently out of reach By Chris Crowell Install Inequality O ne of the largest barriers to solar adoption on a wide scale is the wealth gap, and it will require more prob- lem-solving than a man- date to overcome it. A new report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that nearly half (42 percent) of all the United States' resi- dential rooftop solar technical potential (see pg. 15 for definition) is on the dwell- ings of low-to-moderate income (LMI) households, representing 330 GW of potential solar capacity — a number the researchers admitted was much higher than they expected at the outset. "Understanding the potential size of the LMI market in detail offers new insights and opportunities to serve these communi- ties," said David Mooney, executive direc- tor, Institutional Planning, Integration and Development for NREL. "The potential electric bill savings from the adoption of rooftop solar would have a greater material impact on low-income households com- pared to their high-income counterparts." Although residential solar adoption has increased over the past decade, adoption among LMI households (defined as 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income) and affordable housing providers continues to lag. The obvious issue here is the lack of capital, cash or credit for such an invest- ment among LMI customers, but the NREL report also shows how solar financ- ing strategies and the long-time inability to penetrate the multifamily sector specifi- cally leaves behind the LMI segment. Segment spotlight Across the entire U.S., all income levels mushed together, the rooftop potential of residential single-family is much higher than multifamily — 68 percent versus 32 percent — but the high-income category is doing the heavy lifting to get that outcome. Splitting this chunk another way, into owner-occupied and renter-occupied, reveals where the LMI segment diverges from higher income categories. After doing this, the largest modality of potential is single-family owner-occupied (SFOO) at 177 TWh, but is closely followed by mul- tifamily renter-occupied, with 140 TWh of potential. Said another way, although deployment of rooftop has been concentrated on SFOO, about 60 percent of potential is in the other three combinations. This means over half of LMI technical potential for solar is in underrepresented housing com- binations, like single-family renter-occu- pied and multifamily buildings, which means the barriers of solar deployment in these categories is really an additional a barrier for an LMI individual's access to solar. The study shows the quantity of resi- dential technical potential is highly con- centrated in urban and densely populated areas with more building stock, which makes sense intuitively. But many of these areas with high levels of potential already have significant levels of residential deploy- ment, like California, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Several states cited to have high potential with low

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