Let's Talk About Solar Power and Equity

Photo Credit: TEMISTOCLE LUCARELLI via Getty Images

Photo Credit: TEMISTOCLE LUCARELLI via Getty Images

By Jorge Madrid, Feb 20 (Huffington Post) - We need to have "the talk" about solar power and equity, because ignoring uncomfortable questions will invite misinformation and bad decisions. We need an informed dialogue about how local solar power (large-scale and rooftop) can impact low-income communities and communities of color in the U.S. We need to talk about "all the good things, and the bad things, that may be."

First things first, the price of solar panels has fallen by 80 percent since 2008. Because of this significant decrease in cost, coupled with enabling policies like net metering which allow customers to send the energy they produce from their solar systems back to the grid and receive a credit on their bill, and the emergence of new financing models like solar "leasing" programs, the U.S. has seen an explosion of local solar.

We now boast an estimated 20 gigawatts of solar energy nationwide (enough to power more than 4 million U.S. homes), and the United States added more solar capacity in the past two years than in the previous 30 years combined. In fact, as President Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address, "Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008."

So who is benefiting from this solar boon? According to an analysis from the Center for American Progress, mostly middle-income and working class homeowners:

Rooftop solar is not just being adopted by the wealthy; it is, in fact, mostly being deployed in neighborhoods where median income ranges from $30,000 to $90,000.

The growth of the solar industry is also creating good jobs, and plenty of them. The solar industry added jobs nearly 20 times faster than the national average in 2014, and solar employment has increased 86 percent in the past five years. Solar installers make an average of $20 to $24 per hour, and solar salespeople can make $30 to $60 per hour. And, as I have written before, solar and other clean energy jobs are generally more accessible to people of color and folks without advanced degrees.

Read our opinion on this subject here: Should we be surprised about the latest dirty trick in the war on solar?

Read the full story from Jorge Madrid here: