We all know humans are social creatures, but would you have guessed that the decision to get a home solar system could be more based on whether or not the neighbor has one?

Research conducted at Yale University and the University of Connecticut found that peer influence just might be more important than income level. In other words, solar power is not only for people with excess income.

“We find evidence that the primary determinants of the patterns of diffusion of PV systems in CT are spatial neighbor effects and built environment variables. The electricity price and existence of a Solarize program also play an important role in influencing adoption. Our results indicate that there are important spatial neighbor effects: adding one more adoption in the previous six months increases the number of PV system adoptions in a block group per year-quarter within 0.5 km of the system by 0.44 on average. Over a year, this is roughly 26.4 additional systems per town when taken at the average number of block groups in a town.”

The study found it wasn’t only rich people who were installing solar. More middle-income people were than wealthy folks.

Research like this is important because it refutes one of the myths associate with solar power: that people who choose it are rich snobs. It wasn’t ever true that home solar owners were that, but solar power has been bashed for a number of phony reasons. That one is now dismissed.

The research didn’t delve into whether or not there is also sort of a “contagious” effect for fossil fuels, but it seems reasonable to wonder if some people stay with them because there is a huge number of people using them. In other words, there is sort of a herd effect.

The neighbor effect does apply for going solar. Yale’s Kenneth Gillingham, a professor at the School of Forestry and one of the study authors explained, “People have called it green envy before, where you want to be green so that you can show off your greenness effectively.”

Solar power prices have dropped very much in the last 6 years, so it’s good news for solar power enthusiasts that neighbors are influenced by each other when choosing alternative energy. As more and more people become aware of the fact the solar power is more affordable than ever, they might create waves of adoption in larger numbers than ever before.