New figures published today reveal that new residential solar capacity installed in the US during the first quarter fell by 17% on the same quarter a year earlier, led by a lull in the sunshine capital, California.
According to new figures published Wednesday by GTM Research in cooperation with the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in advance of its upcoming Q2 2017 U.S. Solar Market Insight report, new residential solar capacity across the entire US fell by 17%, due primarily to a combination of seasonal factors and market fundamentals that GTM believes resulted in a slow start to the year for the residential solar sector in California. Specifically, new residential solar capacity in California fell by 22% in the first quarter, as compared to the immediately preceding fourth quarter of 2016. On a year-over-year basis, the decrease is even more significant, dropping 31% between Q1’16 and Q1’17.
And of course, when there is a lull in California’s new capacity additions, there is intrinsically a lull in US figures, with California accounting for approximately 45% of the country’s residential solar market.
However, states such as New York and Massachusetts also saw their residential solar capacity additions fall in the first quarter, causing US figures to drop by 17% year-over-year, and 11% as from the fourth quarter of 2016.
Of course, 2016 was a record year for solar installations, according to the US Solar Market Insight 2016 Year-in-Review report which was published in March by GTM and the SEIA. The US solar market installed nearly 15 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity in 2016, breaking the record by nearly doubling the previous year’s capacity. As can be seen in the graph above, the third and fourth quarter went a long way to helping make that happen. Throw in a new President hell-bent on undermining the US renewable energy industry, there is little surprise that the first quarter took a hit.
However, according to GTM and the SEIA, one other reason might have contributed to this first quarter slump. Austin Perea, solar market analyst at GTM Research, explains that major US residential solar installers such as SolarCity and Vivint Solar are beginning to shift their attention away from rapid growth and focus instead on larger profits. As a result, the big companies are devoting fewer and fewer resources to sales marketing in regions which are simply no longer as lucrative as they once were — stable and mature markets such as California.
Looking forward, GTM and the SEIA predict that there will continue to be a “gradual slowing” of the residential solar market in the US “as companies grapple with the acquisition cost issue and major installers reboot their business strategy.”
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