Nearly 80% of U.S. Households Are Likely Ineligible for Rooftop Solar

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Solar energy is on the rise, but what happens to the estimated 77% of U.S. households that can’t install rooftop solar?

Renewable power generation surpassed nuclear in the United States in 2021 and coal the following year, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis. That same analysis projects that the country’s solar generation will grow 75% between 2023 and 2025. And the United Nations reports that inexpensive renewable electricity could decarbonize 90% of the world’s power sector by 2050, mitigating climate change.

Even so, just 5% of homes in the United States have rooftop solar, according to a June 2023 report from Rewiring America. Homeowners and renters face various financial and logistical obstacles to installing panels. Thanks to Community Solar, however, everyone can access cleaner energy.

For many Americans, rooftop solar isn’t an option

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that 81% of residential buildings in the United States have rooftop space suitable for a 1.5-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system. However, due to factors like ownership, the number of stories of a building, and the availability of roof space, the percentage of households that can actually install a 1.5-kilowatt PV system is just 51% NREL added.

Plus, as Deloitte reports, home solar may only be a viable option for people who have a creditworthy FICO score and who live in a state with net energy metering policies (which allow owners of solar energy systems to sell excess solar energy back to the grid).

Due to factors like roof shading, low credit scores, and property ownership, Greentech Media reports that 77% of U.S. residential households are likely ineligible for rooftop solar installations.

Then there are recent policy changes that make rooftop solar even less accessible. In New York City, for instance, a recent fire code revision requires certain railings and access pathways around rooftop solar panels in new construction, restricting the square footage and sunlight available to those panels, according to Grist. And National Academy of Sciences research released last year showed that more than a dozen states had ended their net metering policies in the prior decade, per E&E News.

Community Solar offers a solution


Whether they wish to save money or help reduce the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels, households for whom rooftop solar isn’t possible or affordable can still benefit from solar energy. Community Solar links households with solar projects — e.g. solar farms — by allowing them to purchase solar energy, often at a discount, that then gets delivered to the local grid.

Altus Power, for example, owns and operates many solar projects installed at ground level or atop rooftops or carports. Altus subscribers purchase solar credits at a discount, and the solar credits result in deductions on monthly bills from their utility company.

And Community Solar is taking off. Research shows that community solar capacity more than quadrupled between 2016 and 2019; and in 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a goal for community solar to power the equivalent of five million households and create $1 billion in energy bill savings by 2025.

“The economics are strongly on the side of doing this,” Dan Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told The Washington Post last year. “It’s now cheaper to build new solar than to operate old fossil [fuel plants]. … We’re at the takeoff point.”

Added Dimension Renewable Energy’s Brandon Smithwood, “The great promise of community solar is it allows everyone to be part of the energy transition and not feel they’re being left behind.”

Interested in signing up for Community Solar? Check your eligibility and start your application here.

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