Home solar – only for the wealthy?

PV Solar Report is out with an analysis [PDF] – done with solar installer SunRun – that says home solar installations are more a middle-income pursuit than something for the wealthy.

The industry-watcher says “nearly two thirds of California home solar installations in 2009, 2010 and 2011 year-to-date have been in zip codes with median annual household incomes of less than $85,000 and not in the wealthiest areas of the state.”

SunRun said the data show that its third-party owned business model has been successful in making home solar more affordable in California. 

“In 2007 we invented a way for homeowners to go solar without the high upfront costs so income would not prevent a switch to cleaner and less expensive energy,” SunRun President and Co-founder Lynn Jurich said in a release announcing the PV Solar Report. 

“The data from PV Solar Report shows this model is working, and that it’s not just the wealthy driving and benefitting from solar adoption. We are working to educate consumers that solar is finally affordable.”

The SunRun system is similar to a lease arrangement: The company owns, insures and maintains solar panels and installs them on a homeowner’s roof.  

The homeowner than pays a monthly rate, fixed for 20 years, for the power.

As helpful as such programs – along with government-provided incentives – can be in making solar more accessible, it should be noted that the PV Solar Report numbers still show home solar strongly tilting toward upper-income households.

While 66.7 percent of the total installations were in zip codes with median incomes below $85K, those zip codes also made up 85 percent of the sample. Meanwhile, even though just 15 percent of the sampled zip codes had median incomes above $85K, those zip codes accounted for 33.3 percent of solar installations.

Put another way: above the $85K line there were 59.6 installations per zip code, while under the $85K line there were 21.5.

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling