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Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS)

Solar photovoltaic panels are an increasingly competitive player in the energy market as the technology improves and the prices drop. The challenge of widespread diffusion is now behavioral as much as economic.

Through large-scale experimentation, SEEDS is testing which strategies and messages are most conducive to solar adoption. This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO).

Phase 1

In this first phase of the research, we looked at the motivations, incentives and programs that would increase the uptake of residential rooftop solar. Key findings included:

Solarize Your Community Report Cover
  • Solar is Contagious. Capitalize on This. Community social networks are a powerful force for driving solar adoption. Recognizing and using these ‘peer effects’ accelerates individual decisions to go solar.
  • A Striking Business Case. Using a tight timeline and bulk discounts can result in dramatic outcomes.

  • The Tremendous Benefit to Local Communities. From a stronger local economy to streamlined policy, running a Solarize campaign offers communities an array of social benefits beyond simply more solar panels.

  • Three Critical Elements of a Successful Campaign. A well-designed campaign comprises three basic steps: first, raise awareness. Second, understand and tap into customer motivation. Third, convert motivation to action.

Read the guidebook

Learn more about this phase of the research

Phase 2

In the second phase of our SEEDS research, we explored ways to broaden the appeal of solar power to a mass market, including low- and moderate-income households. 

Our publication on this phase digs into these topic areas:

SEEDS2 Guidebook Cover


  • The drivers, motivations, and barriers facing LMI households when considering the adoption of solar energy.
  • An overview of Solarize campaigns and how they can work for LMI communities.
  • Messaging approaches and how these play a role in overall satisfaction with solar.


Read the guidebook

Learn more about this phase of the research

Phase 3

Phase 3

The third phase of the SEEDS research (which commenced in October of 2021) will build off of the success of the previous projects that assessed the use of novel behavioral strategies and social interactions to accelerate the deployment of solar energy to both low-and-moderate income households and all households.

This next project is a data-driven analysis of the co-adoption of rooftop solar energy along with energy storage, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency. It involves:

  • Detailed analyses with detailed administrative data and waves of campaigns run as randomized field experiments focusing on coadoption.
  • Surveys following the campaigns to develop insight into the effectiveness of different approaches.
  • Outreach and dissemination of the key findings to relevant stakeholders, highlighting the key conclusions on the most effective and cost-effective approaches for the deployment of solar energy and related technologies to all communities.

Learn more about this phase of the research

About the Solar Energy Technologies Office

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports early-stage research and development in three technology areas: photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP), and systems integration with the goal of improving the affordability, reliability, and domestic benefit of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more about SETO.

Lead Researchers

Kenneth Gillingham

Professor of Environmental & Energy Economics at Yale School of the Environment

Bryan Bollinger

Associate Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern School of Business