Can We Predict How Many People Will Install Rooftop Solar? dGen Explained (Text Version)

This is the text version of a video about NREL’s Distributed Generation Market Demand (dGen™) model that simulates customer decisions about adopting rooftop solar.

Animated scene of an electric truck driving through a neighborhood of houses with rooftop solar panels…

Driving around your neighborhood, you probably see more houses with solar panels these days.

Car drives across scene, sun appears and shines on the rooftop solar panels.

As the cost of solar plummets, it’s become more affordable to power our homes with the sun...

Utility bill appears on screen with a circle highlighting savings from rooftop solar.

Which has the nifty side effect of reducing utility bills. (Cha ching!)

Puzzle pieces overlay the neighborhood.

And with lots of our communities setting goals to reach super-high levels of renewables, rooftop solar could become a significant piece of the puzzle in conquering climate change.

Puzzle pieces disappear, showing blank screen behind them. Question marks appear in the blank spaces.

But understanding how much rooftop solar people will actually choose to install has been kind of a mystery.

Utility planner appears onscreen holding a clipboard and putting her arms up in confusion.

And the folks who plan our power systems kinda need to understand this, because it impacts the energy resources they need to build.

Scene transitions to green grass with NREL sign and sunshine in the background.

Luckily, at NREL we have a group of super-smart researchers who have figured out the formula.

Three animated characters for Ben, Paritosh, and Trevor appear and wave.

Meet Ben, Paritosh, and Trevor.

Background transitions to a blue backdrop with the dGen logo.

They’re the lead developers behind dGen…

Computer screen shows the dGen model simulating customer adoption of rooftop solar in the United States.

…a first-of-its-kind model that can actually simulate how customers make decisions about rooftop solar.

Animated Ben, Paritosh, and Trevor gather around a computer and white board with charts.

They did some research and found…

Text onscreen says, “Common factors impacting decisions:”

…a few common factors that impact a person’s choice to adopt solar.

Icons for money, property, and innovation appear.

…whether it saves them money, whether their neighbors have solar panels, and if the person considers themselves to be innovative.

Animated Ben, Paritosh, Trevor, and utility planner stand around a U.S. map showing customer adoption levels.

And the team wanted to actually use these findings to help the folks who run our power systems understand what might happen in the future.

Laptop screen says, “dGen” and looks like Nintendo video game. Character comes on screen.

So, they built a model that takes these factors into account, using a super sophisticated agent-based approach.

Red X flashes, and more characters appear with a geographic pin in the middle.

Not, like, FBI agents—agents in this sense represent individual decision-makers in a given location…

Lightbulb, people, house, and magnifying glass icons come onscreen.

…based on real data about things like electricity use, demographics, property assessments, and roof scans.

Agent Ashley video game character waves and walks over to a house.

Like this agent. Let’s call her Agent Ashley. Her next-door neighbors just got a rooftop system installed, and those local solar companies will not stop knocking on her door.

Agent Ashley moves through video game, only jumping up to get gold “solar” coins when there are tax credits.

The model plays with different combinations of future situations, like lower solar prices or different tax incentives, and simulates how Agent Ashley, and the rest of her community, make decisions—all the way out to the year 2050.

See how Agent Ashley picks solar in this scenario with tax credits, but not in this one without that sweet refund money?

Zooms out to show laptop, and utility planner returns on screen.

These detailed insights can’t be found anywhere else—and they are incredibly useful to the folks who are planning our future power systems with high levels of renewables.

Animated Ben, Paritosh, Trevor, and Agent Ashley wave and jump for joy.

So, thanks to Ben, Paritosh, and Trevor (and Agent Ashley), customer decision making around solar is easier to predict.

Laptop shows text onscreen, “”

Learn more about how the model works and how you can use it to explore rooftop solar and a growing list of other customer-adopted technologies at dgen.