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Solar Adoption Inequality in the U.S.: Trend, Magnitude, and Solar Justice Policies

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Monday, October 17, 2022, 3 pm– 4 pm

This is a past event.

Environmental Engineering Graduate Seminar

Shan Zhou, Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University

With the rapid diffusion of solar photovoltaic systems in the U.S., there is a growing concern about justice and equity issues in the technology deployment process. Previous studies found that low-income and minority households are less likely to install solar PV systems, indicating that these households would miss the opportunities to benefit from low-cost and independent solar energy systems and government financial incentives. This study shows that while households in Asian-, Black-, and Hispanic-majority census tracts installed fewer solar PV systems than those in White-majority census tracts across all income bins, racial and ethnic disparities in residential solar deployment have been reduced from 2012 to 2019 at the census tract level. It indicates that racial and ethnic minority households are more exposed to solar within their neighborhoods. We also find that utility- and local-level solar justice policies are positively associated with solar adoptions by low-income households, but the positive policy impact is not statistically significant for Black-majority census tracts.

Dr. Zhou is an assistant professor in environmental policy at Michigan Tech. She obtained her BS degree in environmental science from Beijing Normal University, and her MS and PhD degrees in public policy from Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research combines quantitative and qualitative research methods to investigate how public policy can be leveraged to improve environmental quality, to promote the use of clean technologies, and to enhance social equity. 

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