Spatial Patterns of Solar Photovoltaic System Adoption: The Influence of Neighbors and the Built Environment

Marcello Graziano, Kenneth Gillingham

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The diffusion of new technologies is often mediated by spatial and socioeconomic factors. This paper empirically examines the diffusion of an important renewable energy technology: residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Using detailed data on PV installations in Connecticut, we identify the spatial patterns of diffusion, which indicate considerable clustering of adoptions. This clustering does not simply follow the spatial distribution of income or population. We find that smaller centers contribute to adoption more than larger urban areas, in a wave-like centrifugal pattern. Our empirical estimation demonstrates a strong relationship between adoption and the number of nearby previously installed systems as well as built
environment and policy variables. The effect of nearby systems diminishes with distance and time, suggesting a spatial neighbor effect conveyed through social interaction and visibility. These results disentangle the process of diffusion of PV systems and provide guidance to stakeholders in the solar market.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-839
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Economic Geography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015



  • peer effects, neighbor effects, renewable energy, technology diffusion

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