Commercial rooftops can bridge ‘solar equity gap’ — study

By Christian Robles | 04/08/2024 06:57 AM EDT

Stanford researchers found commercial installations could meet at least 20 percent of annual residential electricity in disadvantaged communities.

Aerial view of warehouse with solar panels

Bird's-eye view of a large distribution warehouse with solar photovoltaic panels. iStock

The rooftops of commercial and industrial buildings like warehouses and retail stores could help close a major gap in solar deployment between low-income and wealthy parts of the country, according to a new study.

The study from Stanford University researchers, published in Nature Energy, found that commercial solar installations alone could meet at least 20 percent of annual residential electricity demand in 63 percent of all U.S. disadvantaged communities, as defined by the Biden administration’s Justice40 initiative. The initiative calls for allocating 40 percent of federal climate spending to communities historically burdened by pollution.

In some areas, rooftop solar panels could meet an even higher portion of residential electricity demand, according to the research. For example, commercial solar could account for 30 percent of a disadvantaged community’s electricity needs in May, the paper found.


Solar panels on business rooftops “would promote local clean and low-cost energy generation, which would also increase the resilience from outages and reduce the pollution caused by fossil fuel power plants – many of which are located in low-income areas,” said Zhecheng Wang, a co-author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at Stanford in a release about the study.