Middle-Class Homeowners Biggest Buyers of Rooftop Solar
If you thought there was financial exclusivity in installing residential rooftop solar panels, think again.
Households with middle-class income—$40,000 to $90,000—are adding panels to their roofs more frequently than any segment, according to a report from the Center for American Progress (CAP).
"Middle-class homeowners are overwhelmingly taking advantage of rooftop solar," said Mari Hernandez, a research associate at CAP told ClimateWire. "It really is becoming more of a middle-class tool and a middle-class energy resource."
That's been especially true of residents in Arizona, California and New Jersey, the three states with the most growth in solar-panel installation from 2011 to 2012. While CAP's report centers on residents in those states, the educational institute says its findings are aligned with trends around the country.
The report shows that the average income of those getting the installations is far from the high end of the middle-class range. Median income for residents in Arizona and California was $40,000 to $50,000, and $30,000 to $40,000 in New Jersey.
Since 2000, U.S. residents installed more than 1,460 megawatts (MW) of solar energy on the roofs of their homes. More than 80 percent of that capacity was added in the last four years. They installed 488 MW in 2012—a 62-percent increase over 2011 installations and almost double the capacity added in 2010.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) of Northern California reported the highest number of rooftop solar customers in the country, with more than 95,000 as of September. That figure has been growing by about 1,800 each month.
"Installation costs have dropped," said David Eisenhauer, a PG&E spokesman. "We're really encouraged to see more and more people installing rooftop solar across all income levels.
"We definitely agree that rooftop solar's come of age."
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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