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Published on October 21st, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


SolarCity & Vivint Solar Dominating US Home Solar Power

October 21st, 2014 by  

CleanTechnica Note: Who knows what the future holds? But the present is very clear: the two top solar companies in the US home solar market, SolarCity and Vivint Solar, are dominating the market. At a tiny percentage of current electricity supply, massive home solar growth projected, lower and lower solar costs that make ownership and straight purchases more competitive, and potentially big policy changes coming shortly, things could change. However, early domination in a booming new market can be very, very hard to catch. Here are more thoughts and more details on SolarCity and Vivint Solar’s home solar power domination, via Planetsave:

Top Home Solar Companies In Quarter 2, By Far, Were SolarCity & Vivint Solar

why-solarcity-sideimageNew data from GTM Research shows that the top home solar companies in the 2nd quarter of 2014 were, by far, SolarCity and Vivint Solar. Together, the two companies took over 50% of the market. This is the first time the two have combined to surpass the 50% marker. The milestone is also a bit shocking to me, given how distributed the solar industry is.

Both SolarCity and Vivint Solar offer financing as well as installation, and both are now on the stock market (Vivint Solar just had its IPO).

With the home solar market growing fast, these top home solar companies are growing extremely fast.

vivint-solarBoth companies rely heavily on solar leasing or PPAs. Vivint Solar actually offers PPAs only. However, the solar market is shifting to ownership via loans for a number of reasons. SolarCity seems ready to make the shift. It has just started offering its first home solar loans, and it says that it expects its market for that to be between $500 million and $1 billion in 2015.

I think it’s only a matter of time before Vivint Solar expands into loans as well. The writing is on the wall that this is an increasingly important segment of the market.

I would think that the home solar power market would lend itself well to mom & pop companies and a distributed industry, but that’s simply not the way things work in this day and age, and it seems the market is moving more and more toward consolidation. If that’s the case, it is going to be hard for anyone to catch up with SolarCity and Vivint Solar. Sungevity and Sunrun have potential, and Sungevity has actually expanded into Australia and Europe (before the others). But there’s now a big gap between them and the top two home solar companies.

Images by SolarCity & Vivint Solar

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Michael G

    The Fraunhofer/DOE initiative to make solar panels light enough in 5 years to not need permitting can put all these installers out of business. If I can order my solar panels from Amazon or Home Depot and put them on my roof myself, who needs these guys?


    One advantage that bigger cos have is they can credibly offer 20-year guarantees on installation and the roof. That is a huge concern for people who worry about the holes being drilled in their roofs, and all the extra weight. Another concern is if a roof leaks under a solar panel, how do you fix it? When you sell your house, will the prospective buyer beleive in the solar installation’s durability? These are concerns I hear when I ask people why they don’t have solar.

    This kind of horse race is fun to watch but looking at cell phones and computers is instructive. Do Sony-Ericsson or Motorola have a lock on cell phones? Do IBM and Compaq dominate the PC market? Home solar has so little market penetration a newcomer with a better idea can take over fast.

    • Yeah, we’ll see if this actually competes on the market, though. It also comes with disadvantages. Also, as I said above, awareness is the #1 barrier to going solar today, and the big brands have the most ability to raise awareness (for their benefit). Furthermore, with a multi-thousand-dollar purchase, most people want an expert to guide them. These big solar firms provide that. We’ll see about the potential Fraunhofer spinout.

  • Ray Boggs

    With some third party guidance and organization, I believe that the mom and pops have the potential overtake both SolarCity and Vivint.

    Mom and pops can easily offer better pricing, more personalized service and have a nationwide presence. Once the mom and pop have awakened to the the threat that these giants pose to their existence, I think you’ll see some major changes in market share.

    • I used to think so. But I wonder. Americans love to go for big brands. The biggest barrier to people going solar these days is simply awareness. I think the big brands are more likely to grab people’s attention and sell them on solar, even if they offer a deal that is not as good as a local installer. We’ll see. If EnergySage and CostofSolar.com grow a lot, that would certainly boost the local installers.

    • jim

      How can they easily offer better pricing? Seems like the bigger companies would have the benefit of buying in bulk, thus lowering their prices….think Walmart.
      What makes the solar field unique to this principle?

      • Mike

        I used to sell solar for a smaller company with great prices, then eventually jumped ship and sold solar for SolarCity (better pay/benefits/etc). SolarCity’s prices (along with many other big companies like Vivint, SunRun, and Sungevity) are, without a doubt, much more expensive than most smaller companies.

        I think Zachary hit the nail on the head. In my opinion, awareness (or lack thereof) is the biggest factor. Most people I sold had no idea that leases and PPAs existed, so the actual price didn’t matter. Most consumers are not intelligent consumers and don’t shop around. Hell, a lot of them didn’t even realize other companies existed.

        The big brand idea might have played a small part, but like I said, most people still haven’t heard of the many different solar companies. Those that have will probably shop around and go with the smaller, cheaper companies. The reason SolarCity and VivintSolar hold the largest market share is most likely due to the fact that their sales teams put themselves out there more so than other companies. SolarCity is in Home Depots and Best Buys, and VivintSolar already had a successful business model of selling home security systems door-to-door that was easily transitioned into selling solar. People have become desensitized to commercials, billboards, and flyers. Enormous teams of well trained salesmen are much more effective at getting your name out there.

        Being able to associate with Elon Musk (or as most of the people I talked to – that guy who does electric cars) is also a big plus.

      • Ray Boggs

        The smaller mom and pops don’t have anywhere near the overhead that the bigger companies do. PV pricing is down to the bone due to the Chinese. Margins for the PV manufacturer’s have been squeezed down to a few pennies per watt.

        Buying in bulk only provides a significant advantage until you get to the level of about 2 megawatts per year. After that point, a bigger player can only expect to save about a penny or two per watt.

  • David in Bushwick

    Sorry, did I miss the percentages SolarCity and Vivant both have in the market?
    These various companies should also look into expanding to diesel-powered generation markets such as most Caribbean islands and other islands around the world. These are the highest power rates just about anywhere.
    Pay off the right people so locals can start enjoying cheaper power and stop sending their money overseas for imported dirty diesel.

    • Together, over 50%. The details are in a costly GTM Research report. But SolarCity is probably around 1/3 (~33%), based on recent statements I’ve seen somewhere on the matter (sorry, I forget where I saw that, but seemed to be based off of GTM’s report), and Vivint filling in to probably hit ~51% (so, perhaps 18% more). Nobody else comes close, from the last public figures on the topic, when SCTY & VSLR accounted for less than 50%.

      • Matt in Cali

        Solarcity was over 35% based on 2Q numbers, I expect them to be closer to 38-40% 3Q. That would make Vivint (was 9% 2Q) 10-12%.

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