Is one installer’s loss another’s gain?
The decline of the U.S. residential solar market that began last winter has left questions in terms of cause versus affect that are lingering as we move into a second full year of depressed national market volumes.
Certainly there were many causes – changes to net metering policies, increasing difficulties in customer acquisition, and even rain – to name a few – but one of the larger factors cited by many was the pull-back of national solar installers Vivint and Tesla/SolarCity. As of the latest quarterly results, both of these companies are still installing much less solar than they did a year and a half ago.
So which was it – did policy and market conditions spur a pull-back, or did the pull-back shrink the market? Or both? GTM Research was certainly in the camp that credited the moves by Tesla/SolarCity and Vivint as drivers more than results, and there is a strong case to be made here given Vivint’s struggles following the failed acquisition by SunEdison and the changed priorities following Tesla’s takeover of SolarCity.
Either way, the withdrawal of these national installers has led to a disaggregation of the U.S. solar market, as smaller installers flex their muscles. But the opportunity is not limited to lesser-known, regional companies. PetersenDean Roofing and Solar, which GTM Research names as the eighth-largest residential installer as of Q3 2017, is also announcing ambitious plans for expansion.
Following its acquisition of Hawaii’s Haleakala Solar, PetersenDean has revealed to pv magazine that it is in active negotiations with “a number of brokers and business owners” in four states towards acquisitions that will increase its market share. These states are California, Utah, Colorado and Florida, which represent a mix of established and new markets.
PetersenDean came to solar from the roofing world, and the company’s vision is slightly different than that of many solar installers. Gary Liardon, the president of PetersenDean’s Consumer Division, says that the company will be “expanding its role as a national home improvement contractor”.
Liardon mentions HVAC, lighting and home automation as areas that can fall under the rubric of energy management, and further is looking into acquiring fencing, synthetic turf and painting/coating companies. But in line with the strategy of many solar companies he emphasizes “comprehensive energy management” and not just putting solar panels on roofs.
“We have every intention of leading the industry in developing diverse systems that are applicable across the nation in regions that have not historically seen the level of renewable penetration found in California,” Liardon told pv magazine.
These acquisitions appear to be part of a larger ambitions for PetersenDean, which aims to grow from $400 million to over $1 billion in annual revenues over the next few years. This would put revenues roughly at the same level as those in Tesla’s division that covers batteries and energy storage.
However, this is unlikely to affect the disaggregation in the residential market. GTM Research estimates that PetersenDean had a 1% share of the national residential solar market in Q3, which means that even if it doubles its presence, it will still not have the market share of a Tesla, Sunrun or Vivint.