-- This project is inactive --

Sandia National Laboratories, along with partners at the California Center for Sustainable Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, and Vanderbilt University, under the Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) program, developed powerful computer algorithms that forecast how solar adoption patterns change under different business or policy scenarios.


Technology diffusion is influenced by many factors, including economic and social considerations and the availability and framing of information. Economic incentives affect people's willingness to invest in solar technology in a relatively uniform way. Social incentives, in contrast, can spur adoption in some fragments of the population and dull it in others. This project worked to integrate social and economic incentives, as well as information, into a single comprehensive framework.


This project developed, calibrated, and validated a "crystal ball" for solar's spread. First, researchers collected individual-level data via targeted surveys and laboratory experiments that elicit patterns of consumer decision making. The data was incorporated into a predictive agent-based simulation that models social and economic interactions. Researchers compared the simulation output against the current state-of-the-art to measure the improvement in predictive capability. Next, they evaluated a series of policies in the model and ranked tem in terms of an increased solar diffusion rate.


Researchers have been able to blend disciplinary methodologies to develop a data-driven, agent-based model of solar adoption dynamics. This model suggests the impact of subsidies on solar adoption is far weaker than previously believed, whereas peer effects can be effectively leveraged through targeted marketing campaigns to promote rooftop solar adoption. In addition, the specific messages individuals are exposed to can significantly impact their interest in solar. Using surveys, the team also found that recent solar adopters are representative of the general homeowner population and are increasingly installing solar to protect their families against future electricity price increases, rather than for environmental reasons.