Skip to main content

Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies

A street and a row of townhomes with solar panels on each roof.

The Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) are a series of industry-wide studies that use data-driven and evidence-based methods to identify characteristics, motivations, and barriers to photovoltaic (PV) adoption.

SEEDS 2017-2019 Study

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is leading a 3-year study funded under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) SEEDS-2 program to identify new strategies to dramatically boost solar adoption rates in low and moderate income (LMI) communities. The goal of the program is to give LMI communities the same access to solar power that wealthier communities often enjoy.

A map of the United States is color-coded by zip code to show nationwide suitability of small buildings for solar power.  The greatest potential, above 90% can be found in south Florida and much of Texas. There is significant variation, but potential is generally less in more northern states, with less than 70% potential in parts of northern Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Minnesota.

In determining the solar technical potential of the LMI market in the United States, the SEEDS 2017-2019 study will build off previous NREL work, shown here, that found widespread suitability for rooftop solar power on small buildings in the United States (Gagnon et al 2016).

A cross-disciplinary research team will:

  • Identify social barriers to PV adoption in LMI communities
  • Develop new datasets and modeling approaches to analyze solar diffusion
  • Validate alternative marketing techniques and ownership models that could reach these households at scale.

SEEDS 2014-2016 Study

The SEEDS 2017-2019 study builds upon the SEEDS 2014-2016 study, which was funded by DOE and led by NREL to understand the evolution of customer motivations and adoption barriers in residential PV markets. Through three surveys, the project collected new data to understand characteristics of consumers who have adopted solar for their homes, those who have considered solar, and those who have not considered it for their homes.

The market data revealed that:

  • Economic considerations are the biggest overall driver—but also the largest barrier—to solar adoption
  • Current solar adopters are overwhelmingly satisfied and likely to refer others
  • A large fraction of consumers have not seriously considered solar for their home.

Informed by the market data, the project developed models of U.S. household PV adoption. The project also conducted two market pilots to test methods to increase lead generation and conversion using digital marketing.

To learn more about some of the most useful insights revealed by the SEEDS 2014-2016 study check out "Seven Common Mistakes Solar Installers Make."


Watch videos and download presentations from webinars about the SEEDS studies.

More Information

As the SEEDS 2017-2019 study progresses, more information and resources will become available on this website. Learn more about DOE’s SEEDS-2 program. If you have questions about NREL’s work on the SEEDS project, contact Ben Sigrin.