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Greed can be good when it comes to solar power



Pictures of solar energy installations on the roof.

Purely based on economics, there are a lot of rooftop solar panels in the United States. With the dramatic drop in the price of solar panels, solar systems have become competitive with electricity costs in some states, making the question of sun exposure a major driver. whether the application is reasonable or not. However, photovoltaic-equipped homes are still rare in the US, despite states pushing for the adoption of renewable energy.

So why wasn̵

7;t that push working? To try to find out, a small group of researchers worked with a nonprofit to promote solar installations, which helps test two different messages. One message focuses on self-interest and highlights the economic benefits of installing solar panels. The other is called “social advocacy”, meaning it emphasizes that the solar installation will benefit the community. As the researchers found, self-interest is king – even after the promotion ends. But self-interest has a side benefit of that installed systems tend to use the maximum amount of energy from their panels.

Scripting Solarize

The work is based on a program called Solarize. Solarize runs town-level programs that include a single installer that gives the entire town a team rate. The program’s ambassadors also run solar advocacy programs in town, encouraging adoption. These programs were the target of researchers, who set up an experiment based on the message these ambassadors conveyed. Some towns have received self-interest-focused messages, like “saving thousands by installing solar energy”. Others are more community focused – “Our community is doing something together for more clean energy,” for example. The researchers worked with the program in Connecticut (one of the researchers in Yale), where electricity was expensive.

Previous surveys of Solarize participants showed that either message can resonate. Among the top three reasons people join the program, two are economic (cheap and save on utility bills), and the other is concerned about the environment.

To turn this into an experiment, the researchers identified a group of three towns that were almost demographically matched. The towns were then split so that one person received the message of self-interest, another received the message of pro-society, and one was not part of the Solarize program. Due to some financial hiccups, one of the programs planned did not take place, causing the test to be conducted with 29 towns and a total of just under 700,000 participants. Data on existing trends and households is collected using Connecticut data on all state solar settings, as well as US Census Bureau data. The participants also receive follow-up surveys.

Overall, the Solarize program was effective, driving more installs than did installs in control communities, as well as higher than previous trends in participating towns. And, during the campaign, private messaging resulted in a higher total number of installs than towns that received pro-social messages. Although the towns that received social support messages had a higher install rate than the control towns, the difference was not statistically significant.

Better economy

Additionally, self-interested messaging leads to more efficient installs. Using Google’s solar calculator, the authors estimate that panels installed to respond to these messages receive more sunlight on an average day, generating an additional 4.4. megawatt-hours of the lifetime of a typical system. That is in line with the fact that people who have received self-interest messages say money is their most important reason for installing solar. Additionally, they are more likely to prepay for their system than take out a loan, which increases the rate of return on purchases.

Not surprisingly, this kind of message also works better in high-income communities. There are some suggestions that pro-social texting works better in low-income communities, but the results are not statistically significant. One thing that is always true of people who receive messages of social support is that they say they are more satisfied with their installs and will more likely recommend solar to their friends and neighbors.

Overall, the researchers argue that no one message fits everyone capable of encouraging people to install solar power. For those with upfront means of upfront, attracting financial attention seems to be the way to go. Meanwhile, the community-focused message may appeal to consumers who may not be in the strongest financial position but are primarily driven by environmental concerns – and ready to install. consoles in less efficient locations.

The value of getting the right message is not limited to the campaign itself. The researchers also had data from after the campaign ended, and they found that the effects of private texting persisted for nearly two years. Instead of being the result of campaign exposure, the researchers suggested that exposure to the panels themselves – now present on more of their neighbors’ homes – would spur even more interest in the public. turmeric. This promotes the importance of conveying the right message if we continue to expand on renewables.

PNAS, 2020. DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2004428117 (Introduction to DOI).


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