TODAY’S STUDY: WHAT SOLAR INSTALLERS SEE
Solar Installer Survey 2015
December 2015 (EnergySage)
EnergySage is the only independent comparison-shopping website for solar energy systems and financing options in the country. Every month, our Solar Marketplace matches thousands of homeowners with a rapidly growing list of 275+ pre-screened solar installers. We’re proud that the aggregate installation volume of these 275+ solar installers, both via EnergySage and direct-to-consumer, represents 20% to 30% of total U.S. residential installations per year.
Because of our unique “matchmaking” position in the solar industry, we’re in constant contact with thousands of solar shoppers and hundreds of solar installers every month. This unique position provides us with significant insight into each side of today’s ever-changing solar market. We’re happy to share some of our insight with the broader solar industry.
Our 2015 Solar Installer Survey is made up of the responses from 103 small to mid-sized installers from across the country. Some of the most interesting results include:
• Majority of solar installers began work between 2006 and 2010. No respondents started installing residential solar in 2014, and very few did in the immediate years prior.
• Over 75% of solar installers say PV installations are their primary line of business. The next most popular selections were electrical, design engineering, and consulting.
• Over 50% of solar installers do not offer a single lease or PPA product. The most popular financing routes were cash purchases and unsecured loans.
• Nearly all installers say their customers get multiple quotes. Only 9% of installers told EnergySage that their customers received just their single quote before moving forward.
• Installers plan to spend more on customer acquisition in 2016. The #1 trend moving into 2016 is an increased spend on lead-generating activities, both via online channels like EnergySage as well as in direct-to-consumer marketing…
Business overview descriptors of the 103 solar installers surveyed are below. The typical respondent installed about 40 residential solar PV systems in 2014, and describes solar PV installations as their primary line of business.
2014 Installation Volume The median installation volume was 300 kW for commercial and 316 kW for residential last year (results not mutually exclusive). Assuming an 8 kW system, this represents 40 residential installations or 3+ new systems per month.
The range of responses to this question varied dramatically, with many solar installers reporting over 10,000 kW installed last year.
Primary Line of Business The majority of companies surveyed selected solar PV installations as their primary line of business. Interestingly, nearly 25% did not – conveying expertise in a broad range of related fields from electrical to design to general contracting.
Other Products/Services Offered Installers could select all that applied Almost half of installers offer energy storage solutions to their solar customers. Widespread media coverage of Tesla’s Powerwall system spiked consumer awareness in 2015, and we expect interest to grow as costs decline. While only 4% offer electric vehicle (EV) services today, we expect demand to grow here as well – consumers are increasingly able to afford larger systems, and EVs can serve as an additional form of energy storage.
Installation History & Plans
The ITC and related policy have had a clear impact on when today’s solar installers first began operating. Going forward, half of installers plan to solely focus efforts in their home state.
Year of First Solar Installation The majority of solar installers surveyed began their first installation in the 2000s. Many began installing solar after The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for commercial and residential solar. The largest single increase of new companies entering the solar industry occurred in 2008, the same year as The Energy Improvement and Extension Act. Among other provisions, this Act extended the ITC to 2016 and removed the $2,000 credit limit for solar electric systems beginning in 2009.
2-Year Solar Installation Plans Looking out to the end of 2016, half of solar installers surveyed plan to focus their installation efforts in their home states. The other half plan to look outside of their home states for new growth, focusing on states in their region as well as across the country. Some of the most popular states listed for future installations include Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
All installers surveyed were asked “How do your customers finance their solar projects?”. While the results varied by region and installer size, several key themes became apparent. For example, cash purchases and unsecured loans are the most popular.
Cash is king 50% of solar installers reported that more than half of their customers went solar via a cash purchase. While not an option for every household, cash purchases remain popular as they ensure homeowners maximize their return on investment.
Unsecured loans more popular than secured While nearly 20% of solar installers said their customers relied on unsecured loans half the time, only 4% said the same of secured loans. Unsecured loans are generally easier to process, fostering their increased adoption.
Leases & PPAs not as popular Over half of solar installers surveyed stated that their customers never use a solar lease or PPA. This result varies from the national average, where leases and PPAs make up approximately 60% of systems sold…