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Journal Article

Decay radius of climate decision for solar panels in the city of Fresno, USA


Barton-Henry,  Kelsey
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Wenz,  Leonie
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Levermann,  Anders
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Barton-Henry, K., Wenz, L., Levermann, A. (2021): Decay radius of climate decision for solar panels in the city of Fresno, USA. - Scientific Reports, 11, 8571.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_25500
To design incentives towards achieving climate mitigation targets, it is important to understand the mechanisms that affect individual climate decisions such as solar panel installation. It has been shown that peer effects are important in determining the uptake and spread of household photovoltaic installations. Due to coarse geographical data, it remains unclear whether this effect is generated through geographical proximity or within groups exhibiting similar characteristics. Here we show that geographical proximity is the most important predictor of solar panel implementation, and that peer effects diminish with distance. Using satellite imagery, we build a unique geo-located dataset for the city of Fresno to specify the importance of small distances. Employing machine learning techniques, we find the density of solar panels within the shortest measured radius of an address is the most important factor in determining the likelihood of that address having a solar panel. The importance of geographical proximity decreases with distance following an exponential curve with a decay radius of 210 meters. The dependence is slightly more pronounced in low-income groups. These findings support the model of distance-related social diffusion, and suggest priority should be given to seeding panels in areas where few exist.