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Published on January 14th, 2014 | by Adam Johnston

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SolarCity Takes 32% Of 2013 3Q US PV Residential Market As Utilities Squirm



SolarCity took 32% of the US Residential PV installation market in the third quarter of 2013, as utilities continue to squirm over solar power’s disruptive energy potential.

According to GTM Reasearch, the solar giant had four times the market share of its closet rival, Vivint.

Besides Vivint, rounding out the top five in the third quarter were Verengo, REC Solar, and Real Goods Solar.

US_Solar_PV_Marketshare

“In addition to a steadily growing market share, the company (SolarCity) made a bevy of moves over the course of the year, ranging from the first securitized distributed solar deal to the acquisitions of Paramount Solar and Zep Solar,” said GTM Research Senior Vice President Shayle Kann. ”SolarCity’s 2014 guidance suggests another rapid year of growth, barring bottlenecks in component costs, project finance or regulation.”

Unique sales ventures with Honda, Viridian Energy, and Home Depot helped to boost its market share, attracting a new base of customers, noted solar analyst Nicole Litvak.

“The installer has been quick to enter and dominate new residential growth markets such as New York and Connecticut,” she said.

However, while SolarCity did dominate the overall US residential PV market, other companies have been able to get some market share in other states. Roof Diagnostics and Trinity Solar Power topped SolarCity in New Jersey for the 2013 third quarter. Meanwhile, Vivant lead Massachusetts installations during all of 2013.

However, many utilities want users to pay their fair share, seeing solar companies as a threat to their $360 billion in yearly sales, with net metering playing a key issue: 

The debate centers on net metering, which requires utility companies to credit customers for solar energy that they generate in excess of their own usage. The credits were part of financial incentives to invest in solar energy.

Policies for net metering, which is used in 43 states, vary from state to state, but most credits are set at the local retail price for electricity. That bothers utilities, which contend that the retail price is set too high, resulting in excessive credits to solar users. Utilities want credits set by wholesale prices, which are much lower than retail.

As some utilities will seek to have rules change back to favor them, SolarCity’ and other pv installers success should continue to remind utilities about the role disruptive technologies play on industries. As seen with the Internet constantly changing cable and telephone companies business models, this year may will see ongoing saga of how solar energy will change power utility models as well.

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About the Author

A University of Winnipeg graduate who received a three year B.A. with a combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications. Currently attempting to be a freelance social media coordinator. My eventual goal is to be a clean tech policy analyst down the road while I sharpen my skills as a renewable energy writer. Currently working on a book on clean tech and how to relate it to a broader audience. You can follow me on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or at www.adammjohnston.wordpress.com



  • JamesWimberley

    Some part of the success of solar leasing in the USA compared to Germany and Australia must be due to the multiple inefficiencies still built in to the US solar market. These range from timid and inexperienced retail banks, to incentives that only corporations can use, to layers of pointless and balkanised red tape. On a genuinely level paying-field, more householders would choose to own their installations. Still, any port in a storm.

    • Kevin Gregerson

      Hey James, Leasing is a nothing new concept. In many ways, it’s better to lease than it is to own. In a lot of states and counties your solar system can be counted as an improvement to your property which then increases your property taxes. If you lease it, then it can’t count as an improvement. Also, many of the leasing deals provide a locked in form of power both in quantity, and in price. This kind of savings locks in your retirement years with fixed expense of power at pretty much the cost of a signature. If you purchase a Solar System, you’d save, but not the same amount you’d save if you leased it and invested your cash elsewhere.

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