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Americans Love Solar and Want It on Their Roofs

Eighty-six percent of U.S. adults would “welcome” rooftop solar in their community, the Heatmap Climate Poll finds.

A worker installing solar panels.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Americans love solar power, the inaugural Heatmap Climate Poll finds.

Conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group last month, the poll comes on the heels of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said we must expand our use of solar power (among other renewables) to avoid climate catastrophe. While many aspects of climate action can be controversial, solar is not one of them.

Rooftop solar, especially, seems to have captured the hearts of the U.S. public, with 86% of U.S. adults saying they would welcome its installation in their communities, per the poll.

This makes rooftop solar the most popular of the five zero-emissions sources of power that the survey asked about. Large-scale solar power farms were also popular, with 76% of Americans saying they would welcome them in their communities. Wind turbines were next, at 72%, followed by geo-thermal stations at 62%. A hypothetical — but ever-controversial — nuclear power plant was the only option with less than majority support, at 32%.

There’s one major caveat for this support, however: Eighty percent of respondents said they would prioritize conservation over speed when it comes to renewable energy deployment, a finding that signals resistance to building out large-scale projects on natural land might find political purchase.

Nevertheless it seems that a large share of the public is willing to do more than make noises of support: They want to put solar on their own roofs too.

Nearly half of the 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed said they want to power their home with solar panels in the future, and 13% said they already do. This is more than the share that said they want to drive a hybrid vehicle (40%) or drive an electric vehicle (39%), as well as those who say they want to move away from using a gas-powered stove (20%) or limit their consumption of animal products (22%).

Of the respondents who said they already have rooftop solar panels in their communities, a whopping 94% said their impact has been beneficial.

However, solar’s clear popularity doesn’t mean people know how to fund its installation. President Biden’s landmark climate law, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, upped the country’s tax credit for residential solar installations from 26% to 30%, and extended it through 2032. This credit also applies to wind, geothermal, and biomass fuel projects, as well as battery storage technology. Essentially, installing your own rooftop solar panels just got cheaper.

But half of the survey’s respondents said they had no idea this credit was a component of the IRA; 16% said they were fully aware and 34% said they had some idea. When provided information about the credits included in the law, 35% said they are more likely to purchase solar panels for their home in light of the law’s incentives.

That discrepancy — between the share that is eager to transition and the share that is informed enough to make it happen — suggests that incentives alone aren’t enough to fuel solar development. Education is also necessary.

The Heatmap Climate Poll of 1,000 American adults was conducted via online panels by Benenson Strategy Group from Feb. 15 to 20, 2023. The survey included interviews with Americans in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.02 percentage points. You can read more about the topline results here.

Green
Lisa Martine Jenkins profile image

Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a climate journalist based in Brooklyn. She previously wrote for Protocol, and her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Associated Press, and Civil Eats, among others. Read More

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