Robert Hickey, pHd (Geography), Charles Wassell (Economics), Hongtao Dang (Construction Management)
The Earth is experiencing the effects of climactic warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. One way to address this problem is to replace existing generation capacity with clean sourced energy such as photovoltaic (PV) solar. Washington State’s Clean Energy Transformation Act, amongst other state and federal policies encouraging solar, make WA a candidate for research on local determinants and barriers to residential uptake. In this project, residential solar uptake is mapped by county (2000-2019) and census tract (2017-2019) in cumulative and non-cumulative manners to identify trends over time and space. Installations and capacity were normalized by households to account for the skewed population distributions. These were run against demographic, electricity price, and solar potential variables in uni-and multi-variate regression models in an attempt to explain the distribution of residential solar installations in WA. The tract-level results were inconclusive, perhaps because the determinants operate at larger scales. At the county level, the models are robust and parallel existing literature. For the un-normalized data, the variables accounted for 95% of the variance in the dataset, however, we think this is largely explained by the population distribution in WA. Once normalized, the following variables accounted for only 45% of the variance: college attainment, a younger population base (20-55 year-olds), household income, and households. We posit that there are other variables at play which could include local utility policies; the ease of obtaining loans, permits, and installation; peer influences; or local programs that encourage residents to invest in clean energy.
Keywords: Climate Change, Sustainability, Solar Power