Residential solar electricity adoption: What motivates, and what matters? A case study of early adopters

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This research explores the question, what motivates homeowners to adopt residential solar electric technology? Through interviews with 48 people across the state of Wisconsin, this paper examines the relative importance environmental motivations, economic considerations, and the demographic characteristics and network relations influencing the adoption and diffusion of innovations. This study suggests (1) environmental values alone are not enough, and are not always necessary, to motivate adoption; (2) rational economic calculation in the narrow sense of calculated return on investment or payback period is less important than the particular timing of economic events within a household; and (3) perceiving oneself as an early adopter is only important for some, while communication through social networks occurs in the context of communities of information. Further, these Wisconsin homeowners shared an unexpected characteristic that they identified as motivating adoption – an interest in technical innovation and enjoyment of the technical aspects of energy systems. The findings from this empirical case study offer general insight for understanding investment in renewable energy technologies at the residential scale, suggesting means of improving environmental and energy policy and highlighting avenues for future research.

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Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2014.01.001

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Energy Research & Social Science