unlocking widespread solar adoption

Project Overview

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.


While LMI households are estimated to represent 40% of the U.S. population, it is unknown what proportion live in owner-occupied homes suitable for photovoltaics (PV) or what unique barriers might prevent them from adopting. This lack of information limits the ability to make informed policy decisions, creates challenges for effectively communicating the benefits of solar to LMI households, and — without validated policy strategies — ultimately impedes progress toward scaling-up PV adoption.

This three-year project will use data-driven and evidence-based methods to identify characteristics, motivations, and barriers specific to LMI solar demand. These activities include:

  • 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 adopter and non-adopter households to understand attitudes and beliefs about rooftop solar

  • Testing strategies to increase customer referrals among LMI households

Project Team

Ben Sigrin (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) - PI; lead on technical potential analysis

Zach Franklin (GRID Alternatives)

Annika Todd, PhD (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) - lead on market pilot

Tony Reames, PhD (University of Michigan) - lead on case studies

Kim Wolske, PhD (University of Chicago) - lead on surveys

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) Program

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© 2017 Kim Wolske

Contact me:

wolske (at) uchicago.edu

Kim Wolske

Harris Public Policy, University of Chicago

1307 E 60th St.

Chicago, IL 60637