It's a fact of human nature: we're influenced by what those around us are doing. That can lead us to make some not so great decisions, but it also can lead us to make some very good ones.
Solar power company SolarCity has found that there are pockets of major solar growth in the country that have been fueled by referrals and the positive influence of neighbors.
Last year saw more solar panels installed in the U.S. than any other year and 2016 is expected to see twice as many installations as 2015. There are many causes of that growth like lower prices and better solar policies, but SolarCity found trends of word-of-mouth referrals playing a powerful role, especially in certain areas. More than one in three of their customers are referred by a friend, family member or neighbor, but 10 cities stand out as having even more referral-based customers than average and you can see on the maps how these cities have blossomed into solar hotspots.
The top three cities -- Fort Collins, CO, Kailua-Kona, HI, and Gloucester Township, NJ -- all roughly had a two-thirds referral rate. Below you can see the full ranking.
Seeing the spread of rooftop solar installations in these areas plotted on a map really drives the point home. Below is the greater Honolulu, HI area which is sixth on the list. The green dots are referred customers and the yellow are ordinary customers. You can see how the green dots are in dense clusters -- neighbors influencing neighbors.
Now, part of this contagion is likely owed to SolarCity's Solar Ambassador program where existing customers who refer a new customer get $200 when the new panels are installed and the new customer also gets a month of free solar electricity. There's incentive to both parties to work through the referral program, but a Yale Study in 2014 showed that solar adoption is indeed contagious. That study showed that if a person's neighbor installs solar panels, they are far more likely to become solar adopters themselves and that likelihood grows with the proximity of the neighbor.
This is a type of "keeping up with the Joneses" that could actually help the environment instead of harm it.