Solar panels are contagious

The likelihood of installing solar panels increases when your neighbours or acquaintances have them as well, finds a new study.  It shows that social factors play a major role in the energy transition.

A group of researchers from Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have found that social factors play an important role in the decision to install solar panels.

Their study, which focused on Germany, shows that the number of newly installed solar panels was around 50 per cent higher in municipalities with existing solar panels compared to those without.

The likelihood of installing additional panels within one year is around 25 per cent higher. The social effect is even higher in regions with high solar radiation and low rates of unemployment.

The same holds true even in regions that are less suitable for solar panels, something that the researchers ascribe to the German renewable energy law (EEG), which provides financial incentives to install solar panels.

“From an economic perspective, this is inefficient as the same panel in a different part of Germany could produce significantly more energy,” said Dr. Christoph Siemroth from the University of Mannheim in Germany in a statement. “And it’s in the interest of the consumers for their resources to be used in the most effective way.”

The researchers would like to see the financial incentives instead go towards the producers able to produce the cheapest energy. This would curb the social effects in in areas with inefficiently low solar radiation, which in turn would reduce the overall costs of the energy transition.


Image credit: Jim Winstead, flickr/Creative Commons

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