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

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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.


“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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Adam Johnston

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business

Adam Johnston has 305 posts and counting. See all posts by Adam Johnston

6 thoughts on “SolarCity Takes 32% Of 2013 3Q US PV Residential Market As Utilities Squirm

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • That would be true if the buyer or lessee were limited to a cash only purchase vs leasing. Though with a home line of credit the loan is deductible and the federal 30% credit return to the homeowner. And the homeowner is able to apply as little or as much sweat equity as they are comfortable with. Two percent of the adjusted value in taxation isn’t so high a price to pay, for such flexibility. Unless you live in Texas with a high property tax structure.

        • Not so much the High property tax structure as it is the insurance, liability of repair, credit, etc. But even a home line of credit only goes for 10 years and the only thing deductible off that credit line is the interest which is usually 3-5 percent on 15-25k which still leaves you with a higher interest rate than a car. Not to mention the hit to credit for using up available credit leaves the customer in the precarious position. A locked in rate on a PPA doesn’t take a hit to your credit, garuantees how much power you get, the price you pay for it so you can put your money or credit towards other items or investments.

          Also, many of the purchase options out there come from fly by night installers who don’t give you the one throat to choke option for repairs, refunds etc for the life of the equipment as they lean on the maker of the equipment. The warranty is typically on the manufactures of your equipment which require multiple calls possibly leaving you weeks without a working system. I worked with one such individual who bought equipment from a solar company that got acquired by another. It took him 3 months a dozen hours on the phone and having to pay a contractor 600 bucks to replace the inverter. He was able to get reimbursed for the power lost but not the 600 dollar cost of the contractor and reimbursement took another dozen hours on the phone lots of email and 4 certified letters.

          • Seriously, well I suppose the glass could be considered half empty. My car doesn’t have an interest rate as low as 3%, and it’s not deductible, nor can it be interest only payments until it pays for itself in energy costs. My insurance may go up $2 a month on a healthy home value increase plus lower electricity bills and no gasoline for the car, and my credit not only didn’t get hit – it went up several points!

          • and, what if one of your panels fails and the company you bought the panels from is no longer in business? Ditto on the inverter, it’s not like you’d have 5-6 grand laying around to replace it. Though, inverters can be rebuilt usually 1500 to 2500 dollars for doing so.

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