Adoption Characteristics of Solar Energy

Everett Rogers popularized the Diffusion of Innovations in 1962, atheory of how and why new ideas and technologies are adopted by apopulation. The adoption of solar energy can be analyzed through thefollowing intrinsic characteristics that influence a purchase decision:

Relative Advantage
Potential solar energy adopters want to know how electricity generatedby a solar system is better than electricity generated by the utility.With correct engineering and design, the electricity produced by asolar energy system is no different than the electricity delivered bythe utility grid. Solar energy can be more reliable and secure thanutility electricity when integrated with a backup system – enabling atruly uninterruptible source of energy for the building.

Solar also has a financially advantage to increasingly costlytraditional utility electricity. Solar energy both reduced the fixedcost of electricity for the building owner and hedges against furtherelectricity price increases. The environmental benefits of solar is yetanother advantage as it eliminates all of the harmful externalitiescaused by producing energy with coal or other fossil fuels.

Solar also holds a relative advantage to other available renewableenergy options. Solar energy is easier to integrate with residentialand commercial buildings than other renewable alternatives (wind,geothermal, etc.), far more effective and reliable, and now moreeconomically viable.

Potential solar energy adopters want solar energy to be compatible withtheir lifestyle and daily routine. Solar is highly compatible with thevalues and desires of the environmentally-conscious energy consumers.Studies have shown that increasingly more people value the reduction offossil fuel use and higher efficiency usage of energy, to which solarenergy helps achieve both these ends.

The electricity produced by a solar energy system is completelycompatible with a buildings need for the energy. There is no differencebetween the electricity produced by the utility and that produced bysolar energy.

Potential solar energy adopters want the process to be simple andturnkey. The complexity of solar energy integration has decreaseddramatically over the past decade. The purchasing process, provided bymost solar integrators, is simple and requires only a few uncomplicatedchoices from the adopter. The plug- and-play nature of modern solarenergy systems requires no interaction or responsibility from theadopter to operate.

Potential solar energy adopters would ideally want to "try" solarenergy before putting it on their building or land. Although solarenergy cannot be "test driven" like a car, interested adopters can"trial" solar by seeing an existing installation in work. Remotemonitors and internet interfaces can "show" how the solar energy systemproduces energy and how much electricity it is generating. Solar HomeTours around the country allow potential buyers to experience solarhands-on and talk to current solar energy homeowners.

Potential solar energy adopters want to see many systems alreadyinstalled and operating. As an exterior feature, solar energy isvisible on most buildings that have it installed. Solar is on displayin very publicly visible areas – such as major airports, commercialbuildings, and museums. With over 75,000 solar energy systems installedin the U.S., including hundreds of large and highly noticeable solarfarms, there are plenty of opportunities for potential adopters to seesolar at work.

In conclusion, it is apparent that solar energy has broken throughmany barriers to move towards adoption by several key social groups inAmerica. Nonetheless, there is still much to be done – especially inthe area of education and knowledge. The adoption process starts withthese two essentials; if someone isn’t aware of what solar energy is orwhat it can do then it renders the rest of the process irrelevant. Moreresources must be allocated by the manufacturers, distributors,integrators, and state and federal energy departments to educating thepopulation about solar energy – so we can then persuade, implement, andgrow solar into a noticeable chunk of the energy solution in the UnitedStates.

-Jesse Malcomb


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