Record Year For California Third-Party Home Solar Leases

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Having home solar panels installed by leasing them from third parties has grown like wildfire in the US, particularly in states with their own government incentive programs. On February 13, Sunrun, a pioneer in third-party solar leasing, and solar photovoltaic (PV) market data provider PV Solar Report, announced that third-party-owned solar pumped more than $938 million into California’s economy in 2012, a record-high annual amount equal to that of all the previous five years combined.

Third-party solar energy system leases now account for nearly three-quarters (74%) of California’s residential solar market, according to Sunrun and PV Solar. A market research report released last August revealed that solar leasing had added more than $1 billion to California’s economy since being introduced in 2007.

Photo credit: GRID Alternatives
Photo Credit: GRID Alternatives

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The California state government has put together one of the most proactive and ambitious packages of home solar energy incentives in the nation (if not the most proactive and ambitious). Spurred ahead by the California Solar Initiative (CSI), or the “One Million Solar Roofs” program, solar power generation capacity breached a major milestone, crossing the 1 gigawatt (GW) installed solar power generation capacity mark.

Having a home solar energy system installed via third-party leasing makes a significant dent in the upfront cost of having one installed, with providers in some states even offering zero-down financing. That’s driving uptake of solar PV across a much broader base of the US population, low- and median-income households in particular. Two-thirds of home solar installations are now occurring in low- and median-income neighborhoods, according to a July 2012 assessment from the California Solar Initiative (CSI), Sunrun, and PV Solar.

“Solar service is bringing solar to more American families not only because it eliminates the upfront cost, but also because it removes the hassles of ownership,” Sunrun co-CEO Lynn Jurich was quoted in the press release. “Homeowners feel the impact of a tight economy and are looking for ways to own less in order to save more money. Our business model meets those needs, plus it helps the planet.”

The numbers speak for themselves.

“Nearly 75% of homeowners who went solar in 2012 chose third-party-owned, compared to 56% in 2011,” founder and managing director of PV Solar Report Stephen Torres highlighted. “We are seeing the most growth in low and median-income zip codes as companies like Sunrun continue to remove the barriers to access.”

Earlier this week, Greentech Media (GTM) released research that found that third-party-financed home solar installations made up more than 50% of new capacity in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Massachusetts. The third-party leasing business model is also gaining market share in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, and Washington, according to GTM.

Drilling down into the data, PV Solar and Sunrun compiled a list of California’s “Top Solar Cities for 2012”:

  1. San Diego
  2. San Jose
  3. Bakersfield
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Fresno
  6. San Francisco
  7. Corona
  8. Murrieta
  9. Clovis
  10. Temecula

An executive summary of the Sunrun-PV Solar report is available online.

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