Since the concept of solar power was first introduced on a commercial basis in the 1950s, this form of renewable energy has become significantly more affordable and accessible. Since 1977, for example, the cost of solar panels has dropped about 100 times. Today, solar panels cost half of what they did in 2008.
It’s clear that solar is the fastest-growing energy source in the U.S. So why is it still primarily reserved for the more affluent?
According to Mother Jones, less than 5% of the 645,000 or so U.S. homes equipped with solar panels are households earning $40,000 or less per year. The typical solar home is a stunning 34 times larger than the average non-solar dwelling, as well. For those who rent their living spaces, getting a solar panel installation approved by their landlords is next to impossible.
To help combat this, the White House announced an array of new measures aimed at making solar energy more accessible to low-income Americans on Tuesday, July 7.
These measures include a plan to boost construction of “community solar” projects, in which one solar installation supplies power to multiple homes or apartments. The projects will primarily focus on low- and middle-income households, the Washington Post reported.
The White House’s plans also include a pledge to install 300 megawatts of solar and other renewable energies in federally-subsidized housing developments by 2020. For perspective, one megawatt of energy is enough to power 164 homes.
“It’s very important not only that we achieve that goal, but how we get there as well,” Brian Deese, a senior adviser of President Barack Obama’s, said. “We know there are significant challenges in the scope and geographic reach of solar.”
To precipitate these goals, President Obama plans to use AmeriCorps funding to train personnel for solar jobs, hoping to create 75,000 new jobs in the sector by 2020, NBC News reported.
All these announcements come about a week after the Obama administration pledged to source 20% of its total electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2030 as part of a joint agreement with Brazil. To do this, the U.S. will need to triple its use of renewable energy.
Whether it will be able to do so still remains to be seen. But with solar technology more affordable than it’s ever been in history, there’s never been a better time to push for expanded adoption of solar.