This story was originally published by CityLab and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
One of the fundamental drivers of the environmental justice movement is that low-income communities and communities of color are often at the forefront of environmental harm, since they are more likely to live in the path of air pollution and near toxic facilities like oil refineries.
But a study recently published in Nature Sustainability highlights the fact that communities of color are also disproportionately missing out on the benefits of rooftop solar power.
Led by Deborah Sunter, an engineering professor at Tufts University, the research team found that black- and Hispanic-majority census tracts have much lower rates of adopting rooftop photovoltaics (PV) than majority-white or no-majority tracts. Sunter’s team used data from Google’s Project Sunroof, which uses machine learning and satellite imagery to track existing rooftop solar arrays around the country, and from the Census Bureau’s 2009–2013 American Community Survey. The Google data included some 60 million roofs and 2 million solar installations.