Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies: 2017-2019

The Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) 2017-2019 study focuses on identifying new strategies to dramatically scale up solar adoption rates in low-to-moderate income (LMI) communities with the goal of giving LMI communities the same access to photovoltaic (PV) power that wealthier communities often enjoy.

An example of a predictive model shows a scattering of blue data points, with a curve drawn through the middle, marking a trend in the data.

The study will use survey analysis to help understand the roles and sources of referrals for PV adoption in LMI communities and use predictive models (example shown here) to understand previous adoption successes.

In order to achieve this goal, a deeper understanding of the potential LMI PV market is needed. While LMI households represent roughly 40% of the U.S. population, the unique barriers that might prevent them from adopting PV are unknown. This lack of information prevents informed policy decisions, makes it hard to effectively communicate the benefits of PV to LMI households, and ultimately impedes PV adoption.

To address these research needs, the SEEDS 2017-2019 study seeks to:

  • Develop novel, data-driven, and evidence-based strategies that could identify pathways to dramatically scale up solar adoption rates in LMI communities
  • Evaluate the potential for LMI market penetration
  • Validate alternative marketing techniques and ownership models that could effectively target LMI households and cost-efficiently reach scale.

The 3-year project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Sunshot Initiative's SEEDS-2 program.


The SEEDS 2017-2019 study will create opportunities to scale-up the LMI solar market through three tangible, yet previously unexplored mechanisms.

  1. Identify the feasibility of matching penetration rates in LMI households to that of the traditional PV market. The project team will do this by determining the technical potential for owner-occupied LMI households, and likewise, the proportion of households that would need to be served by emerging adoption models, such as community solar or aggregated net metering. The team will also conduct a deeper analysis into three representative regions to determine the range of existing institutional and market barriers to reaching widespread adoption.
  2. Develop predictive models to analyze the factors that have historically led to existing LMI adoption and extend these models nationally, to the practical benefit of project partners, but also to inform a broader national dialogue. The structure of the project team permits unparalleled access to a rich and previously unexplored dataset of LMI adoption in regions that have successfully increased LMI solar adoption.
  3. Collect new market data fro­m existing LMI adopters to investigate non-economic motivations and barriers for getting solar, with a particular emphasis on understanding the role of social networks. This information will inform the design and implementation of an experimental referral market pilot that will be embedded into the daily work of the project's nonprofit partner, GRID Alternatives.


Watch videos and download presentations from webinars about the SEEDS 2017-2019 study.

SEEDS 2017-2019 Partners

The following partners are collaborating with NREL on the SEEDS 2017-2019 study.

More Information

As the SEEDS 2017-2019 study progresses, webinars, publications, and other findings from the project will be made available on this website. Learn more about DOE’s SEEDS-2 program. For more information about NREL's work on the SEEDS project, contact Ben Sigrin.