While it’s great to see large homes owned by the likes ofWoody Harrelson and Will Ferrell being solar-powered, rooftop solar should be accessible to people across the socio-economic spectrum of the U.S., not just the one percent. But putting solar on all of these different roofs is currently a serious challenge.
Even with lowered PV costs and the prevalence of third-party financing programs, solar is largely out of reach for many low-income families. Many are renters who do not own their homes, putting them at the mercy of their landlord. For those that do own their homes, few have enough tax liability to take full advantage of federal and state tax incentives for rooftop solar. That’s largely a moot point anyway, since even with incentives the steep upfront cost of rooftop solar in the U.S. still puts a PV system financially out of reach for low-income families. That’s where third-party leasing can come in, but many low-income families have low credit scores and most solar leasing companies require a credit score of at least 700. It’s one potential financial barrier after another.
Fortunately, there are groups around the country working to overcome these barriers to market participation and ultimately bring solar to low-income households. Giving low-income families access to solar PV systems can help lower their utility bills, provide employment opportunities, and bring about an element of environmental justice.