Solar Builder

JAN 2018

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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SOLARBUILDERMAG.COM | 13 While SolarCity slowed down leasing systems, Sunrun has stayed the course, so much so that GTM Research says Sunrun surpassed SolarCity around the third quarter of 2017. "Through the first half of 2017, Sunrun narrowly missed the top spot in the TPO [third-party owned] market with 27 percent market share, just behind SolarCity's 31 per- cent share and up considerably from its 18 percent share in 2016. That difference of 4 percent market share between SolarCity and Sunrun equated to just 19 MW over two quarters. And in Q3, Sunrun financed 80 MW of systems, while SolarCity financed no more than 59 MW (a ceiling, as some of SolarCity's systems were from its commercial business), a difference in Sunrun's favor of more than 20 MW." Sunrun also doesn't need to cost cuts in the same way as SolarCity because of its strategy of using a vetted dealer network to install systems. Despite that success, don't bet on leases as a long-term play. GTM Research says leases will make up just 37 percent of the residential market in 2017 as compared to 53 percent in 2016. Customer acquisition is a huge expense, as you know, but such costs are especially unwieldy on a national scale, and as the early adopter markets have matured, the returns start to not match the investment. GTM says SolarCity and Vivint have scaled back opera- tions in some of these markets as a result, citing them as unprofitable — but this doesn't make them unprofitable for smaller, nimble solar contractors. Again, from GTM: "While the companies make better mar- gins off their TPO products, years of selling leases and PPAs (where the companies receive payment from the customer over a 20 year term) have left both companies in dire need of cash in the near term. Cash and loan sales allow the installers to realize immediate payment for systems they install." Jobs still matter Real talk: Solar is the only industry in the country with the capability to create hundreds of thousands of meaningful new jobs. The tech industry, as important as it is, doesn't employ the number of people equal to its size of influence (usually removing jobs from the overall workforce in aggregate). The U.S. solar industry, on the other hand, is a sea of job opportuni- ties. No number of tariffs are going to turn around climate change, the inefficiency of coal, the instability of natural gas price swings or even the general lack of growth industries in today's economy. This gives it, pardon the pun, power. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says "solar installer" will be the fastest-growing job in America over the next decade. As the U.S. economy adds a projected 11.5 million jobs over the next decade, solar installer jobs will grow by 105 percent — more than any other occupation. The number of solar jobs increased in 44 of the 50 states in 2016, showing that solar industry growth is truly a nationwide phenomenon. The state with the highest total number of solar jobs in 2016 was California, followed by Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada and Florida. There are also more avenues for joining the industry and for finding interested employees. The Solar Training Network, for example, launched an online solar career platform at solartrainingusa.org, which provides career resources for solar job seekers and connect solar trainers and employers to qualified applicants. In summary: Don't let the broad head- lines on total solar capacity and tariffs fool you because the future is still bright for solar installers. Chris Crowell is the managing editor of Solar Builder. That's how much non-residential, non-utility grew in Q3 2017. California, Massachusetts and New York all posted strong quarters while Minnesota had its largest quarter ever. 22%

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