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unlocking widespread solar adoption

Uptake of rooftop solar has primarily been concentrated in higher income households. As technology costs decline, focus is shifting toward increasing uptake in underserved market segments. A key policy goal is to expand solar access more equitably, particularly to low-to-moderate income (LMI) households. In order to achieve this goal, a deeper understanding of the potential LMI market is needed.


This four-year project used data-driven and evidence-based methods to identify characteristics, motivations, and barriers specific to LMI solar demand. These activities included:

  • Mapping the technical potential for solar deployment in LMI communities

  • Conducting three case studies to examine the pertinent economic and policy factors that contribute to or hinder LMI market potential

  • Surveying LMI adopter households to understand attitudes and beliefs about solar

  • Testing strategies to increase customer referrals among LMI households


Wolske, K.S., Todd-Blick, A. & Tome, E. (2023). Increasing the reach of low-income energy programmes through behaviourally informed peer referral. Nature Energy. Access paper here:


Wolske, K.S. (2020). More alike than different: Profiles of high-income and low-income rooftop solar adopters in the United States. Energy Research & Social Science, 63, 101399.


Other papers by Project team:

Reames, T.G. (2020). Distributional disparities in residential rooftop solar potential and penetration in four cities in the United States. Energy Research & Social Science, 69, 101612.

Sigrin, B.O., & Mooney, M.E. (2018). Rooftop solar technical potential for low-to-moderate income households in the United States (No. NREL/TP-6A20-70901). National Renewable Energy Lab.(NREL), Golden, CO (United States).

Visit the project website

Project Overview


Ben Sigrin (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) 

Zach Franklin, Emma Tome (GRID Alternatives)

Annika Todd, PhD (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) 

Tony Reames, PhD (University of Michigan)

James Tong (Advanced Grid Consulting)

UChicago Research Assistants:

  • Andrew Bray

  • Nicolas De Le Maza

  • Julian Lake

  • Jordan Weiszhaar

Past Research Assistants:​

From left to right:

Ben Sigrin, Tony Reames, Kim Wolske and Annika Todd


U.S. Department of Energy Sunshot Initiative, Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) II Program

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