Sunrise brief: Who’s adopting rooftop solar? Berkeley Lab report offers insights

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Residential solar adopters still tend to have higher incomes, but that trend is diminishing over time.

That’s one of the findings in a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The report offers income, demographic, and other socio-economic trends among U.S. residential rooftop solar adopters.

Researchers based their findings on data for roughly 1.9 million residential rooftop solar systems installed through 2019, representing 82% of all U.S. systems.

The report said the median solar adopter income was about $113,000 a year in 2019, compared to a U.S. median of about $64,000 a year. Even so, low- and moderate-income households are also adopting. In 2019, about 42% of adopters earned less than 120% of their area’s median income.

These trends reflect the effects of falling solar prices and the emergence of policies and business models that support broader adoption, among other factors, the report said.

Other findings include:

  • Solar adopter incomes vary considerably and encompass many low-to-moderate income (LMI) households.
  • Solar-adopter incomes are consistently higher for systems paired with battery storage, for host-owned systems, and for systems installed on single-family homes.
  • Solar adopters differ from the broader U.S. population in terms of a variety of other demographic and socioeconomic measures. For example, the tent to have higher credit scores, have more education, are older, and work in business and finance-related occupations.
  • State-level comparisons indicate that solar-adopters tend to live in neighborhoods with relatively high non-Hispanic White and Asian populations, and with relatively low Hispanic and Black populations.

Along with the report, Berkeley Lab published a set of online data visualizations that allow users to explore the underlying data.

Canopy solar project

A 682 kW community solar canopy project developed by Citrine Power in New Jersey is now under construction. The system is located on car and bus parking lots and is one of 45 projects approved by New Jersey utility regulators under the state’s Community Solar Program Pilot Year 1 in late 2019. The system is expected to enter service this fall. It is intended to serve low-and-medium income residents in four counties in the western part of the state.

The canopy is financed by Sunwealth, a renewable energy investment company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which will also own and operate the system. Sunwealth contracted with Maryland-based Neighborhood Sun for customer enrollment and management. The system is being built by New Jersey-based Pfister Energy.

Mosaic securitizes loans

Solar finance platform Mosaic said it closed a $331 million securitization of residential solar loans. The offering included 26 unique investors, including insurance companies, money managers, banks, pension funds, and hedge funds.

The transaction consisted of four classes of notes rated by Kroll Bond Rating Agency from “AA-” to “BB-” with weighted average lives ranging from 2.82 to 5.11 years. Deutsche Bank was the structuring agent and bookrunner, and the Royal Bank of Canada and BNP Paribas were joint bookrunners.

Strata Solar name change

Strata Solar said it is changing its name to Strata Clean Energy. It said its rebranding is in response to the “proliferation of clean energy” and aims to provide customers with more renewable energy options. In 2020, the company developed the Ventura Energy Storage grid-scale battery project. Ventura is a 100 MW, 400 MWh battery energy storage system in California. The project awarded an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract to Tesla for its Megapack battery system.

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