Things change quickly in the U.S. distributed solar market. While in 2016 SolarCity had more than twice the market share in the third-party solar space than its nearest rival, Sunrun, new data released by GTM Research indicates that Sunrun displaced Tesla/SolarCity as the leader in this segment in the third quarter of 2017.
In terms of numbers, Sunrun deployed 80 MW of third-party systems during Q3, compared to only 59 MW at Tesla/SolarCity.
This is the first time this has happened, and there are multiple reasons behind the shift. And while both shrinking installations since Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity and the new company’s withdrawal from the third-party solar space are the largest factors, Sunrun remains the only of the “big three” U.S. residential solar companies that has continued to grow even as the overall residential market has contracted during 2017.
And as it has done so, Sunrun has held onto the third-party solar model, where it owns the PV systems installed on customer homes and either sells the electricity through a power contract or leases systems to homeowners. According GTM Research data, third-party solar still represents more than 80% of Sunrun’s deployments, whereas nearly half of Tesla/SolarCity’s deployments are direct sales.
This does not mean that Sunrun has outpaced Tesla/SolarCity in overall deployments. It is unclear who the current leader is in the residential space, due to Tesla’s lack of interest in disaggregating its deployments, however the 109 MW of solar deployed in Q3 by Tesla/SolarCity in both residential and commercial and industrial sectors is still higher than the 90 MW deployed by Sunrun, which only operates in the residential space.
However, given the ongoing growth of Sunrun dwindling sales at Tesla/SolarCity, it is possible that Sunrun could become the the largest distributed solar installer in 2018.