Blackouts, grid failures driving US homeowner interest in rooftop solar

SunPower surveyed 1,500 homeowners to better understand the factors motivating them to consider solar. Image: SunPower.

Power outages and grid failures as a result of recent extreme weather events are driving the adoption of solar and storage systems among US homeowners, new research from installer SunPower suggests.

Homeowners that experienced power cuts in the last year are nearly four times more likely to have purchased a solar system, according to the solar installer’s SunPower Energy Sense Index, which surveyed 1,500 homeowners to better understand the factors motivating them to consider renewables.

One-third of those considering solar cited high-profile outages as a key reason to start investigating systems for their homes, and 70% of this group plan to include a battery for energy storage in their initial purchase for resilience during outages. Of those already with solar, 39% said they installed a battery for energy storage and resiliency during outages.

The grid’s inability to maintain power through extreme events, such as wildfires in California to Texas’s winter storm, is spurring anxiety among homeowners, the report says, with two in five respondents worrying about power outages on a monthly basis.

Homeowners are also said to be experiencing discord with their electricity providers, with more than half (52%) who experienced a power outage last year saying their level of trust in their energy provider has wavered.

However, ahead of the desire for resiliency during outages, the top motivating factor for Americans to go solar is to lower their energy costs. While 79% of those considering the technology say the high cost of installs would be the reason that prevents them from putting a system on their property, 60% of respondents overestimate the average cost, SunPower says.

According to recent findings from monitoring and data firm EnergySage, US residential solar prices fell 6.3% between July 2020 and June 2021, representing the largest price reduction in the last four years.

The SunPower research also suggests that solar adoption is shifting among demographics, with many of those considering installs are older, less wealthy and more geographically and politically diverse than those who already have solar systems. Baby boomers represent the majority (55%) of those newly considering solar compared to 11% that already have systems.

While those who own or are contemplating solar are largely concentrated in the US South and California, the Midwest is said to be the next most promising area for residential rooftop PV deployment, with 24% of homeowners considering the technology from this region.

Despite progress, the research says solar is still very much in its infancy and is used by less than 3% of US households. “The data proves there is still much work to be done to reverse misconceptions and educate consumers on the affordability and ease of using solar and storage in their homes,” the report reads.

Rising demand for solar and storage solutions helped SunPower add 13,000 customers in the second quarter of this year, the company revealed earlier this month, taking its total residential install base to more than 376,000.