Solar Builder

MAR-APR 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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10 M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 2. Residential space still driven more by local policy Ross mentioned how Sungage had already seen some decreases in the residential space due to the large national players shifting gears, and the change in the mix of third-party ownership — all of these shifts putting growth in neutral (to keep the shifting anal- ogy going) until the next growth model emerges or more smaller companies mature enough to fill the void. Here's how Ross broke it down: "If I were to take the blood pressure of our clients across the 14 states we are in as a proxy of how the tariffs will affect their business, I'd say in California, they didn't bat much of an eye. In talking to folks in Texas and Florida, the economics are tighter and have people concerned, but our partners in Texas have learned how to sell residential solar without month-one savings — have learned to speak to the other attributes of solar and lifetime savings." Honestly, here in Boston, the crowd seems way more up in arms about the demand charge local utility Eversource just got approved, and Ross's blood pressure test bears that out. "Change in the policy and regulatory environment is a distrac- tion from honing your business, which is already hard work. So, folks here are much more concerned about changes coming with the SMART program and changes with the demand charge from Eversource." 3. Community solar model bridges the gap Born in the Northeast, Nexamp understands this market more than most, handling development, EPC, asset management and O&M work. But the company's most recent venture into com- munity solar has Ashai most excited. "I think the future is bright for community solar," he says. "Look at the Northeast and Midwest. There's a strong appetite from rate payers and citizens for it, but in Massachusetts, only about 20 per- cent of roofs are suitable for solar. So, there's a strong desire to find a way to participate without having to install a system." This has been the case for awhile, but an even more compli- cated financial structure made community solar a challenge. Speaking again to the maturity of the market, Ashai thinks this is no longer the case. "The hybrid model, of having an anchor tenant and then resi- dential buy-in created a lot of complexity," Ashai said. "But a lot of success has allowed more lenders and equity providers to come in, and now we see this as the most promising segment from our vantage point in the Northeast." In New York, community solar is becoming even more viable with a model that allows customers to change on a monthly basis, whereas in Massachusetts they do this every six months. "What this allows you to do, when you finance it, you create a wait list and then you can keep replacing customers and know those credits will not get lost," he says. And that's the summation of the chatter in Boston. Tariffs are going to depress the market as much as predicted, but the momen- tum, proven models and policy interest today will allow the industry to roll with this punch much better than was ever possible before. "We can counteract some of the activity at the federal level with strong state-level changes, such as an expansion of the state tax credit for homeowners going solar in Massachusetts," Ross said. "So expanding that with one tool we have in the tool kit will help counteract that." Chris Crowell is the managing editor of Solar Builder. SCENE ON THE Solar Power Northeast in Boston is the first solar industry conference in this post #TrumpTariffs world, and the mood of the room was upbeat.

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