More than half of millennials say they want solar panels: study

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Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Any automotive journalist has, by now, sat through many lengthy presentations from carmakers on Millennials and what they want.

Some are insightful, a few are cringeworthy, but the basic message seems to be that they're very, very different and hard to understand.

We'd suggest that's the way of the world: older people often do stand on their porches, wave their rakes, and scream at the damn kids to get off the lawn.

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But a recent study from Accenture Consulting (via GreenTech Media) offers some hope to green-car advocates and clean-energy fans.

Based on a survey, it suggests that more than half of Millennial consumers (born from 1982 to 2002) will sign up for solar panels within the next five years.

That compares to less than one-fifth (18 percent) of Baby Boomers, defined as those born from 1946 to 1964.

Photovoltaic solar panels on roof of Honda Smart Home at UC-Davis, California

Photovoltaic solar panels on roof of Honda Smart Home at UC-Davis, California

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Many factors play into this, of course.

Solar panels are getting cheaper every year, and some utilities now say that certain types of solar generation facilities are cost-competitive with even the most efficient new natural-gas plants.

Millennials have also absorbed environmental messages throughout their education that were largely absent from the schooling of Boomers, especially the older members of that generation.

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Finally, green technology—including, it must be said, the fast and sexy electric cars pioneered by Tesla Motors—has taken on a much cooler appeal than it may have had in decades past.

It is no longer the preserve of "smelly hippies," as one auto writer famously characterized Prius owners and green advocates.

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with roof solar panels visible; photo by George Parrott

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with roof solar panels visible; photo by George Parrott

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Instead, advanced technology to reduce energy consumption and green the grid offers not only the promise of a better future but also jobs, many of them high-paying.

As the article noted, utilities ignore that customer group "at their peril."

So consider this little Friday factoid an indication of optimism among consumers who will reach their peak spending years over the next two decades.

And ask your nearest local Millennials what they think about solar panels, and how likely they are to go solar in the next five years.

Just don't wave your rake.

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