Tesla stays on top of the California solar market


California has been a messy place for solar. As the nation’s largest residential market, the state was disproportionately affected by the pull-back of SolarCity and Vivint when the two changed their business models in the wake of takeovers, both failed and successful.

To add to this drama, heavy rains in first few months of 2017 battered the state, putting residential solar installation to a standstill. Throw in the switch to Net Metering 2.0 and mandatory time of use rates, and you have the perfect storm.

Yesterday Ohm Analytics released detailed data on the residential market shares of California installers in 2017, showing that despite a 50% fall in installations, Tesla/SolarCity managed to stay on top of the state’s residential market, with nearly 18,000 installations during 2017 and a 16% market share.

And despite a 23% fall in Vivint’s installations, the company still came in #2 with a 7.5% market share, ahead of Sunrun’s 6.2%.

Sunrun provides a challenge, as the company provides its third-party solar product to an installer network, but these are not necessarily included in Sunrun’s number – meaning that the company’s presence in the California market is likely larger. In comparing the national numbers from the quarterly results of the individual companies, Sunrun has surpassed both Vivint and Tesla in recent years to become the largest residential solar company in the United States.


The long tail

But beyond the positioning of the big three, what is more telling about Ohm Analytics’ report is the positioning of the next 15 installers. While in 2016 these made up only 16% of the market, with the top three taking 39%, the tables turned in 2017. Last year Tesla, Vivint and Sunrun made up only 29% of the California market, and the next 15 installers 24%.

In fact, despite overall market contraction, 11 of these 15 companies installed more solar in 2017 than in 2016, with two companies – Infinity Energy and Freedom Solar – showing more than 100% growth.

Not all of these 15 companies are small, or regional. SunPower and its dealer network showed a 35% growth in installations, to capture a 3.7% market share, replacing PetersenDean as the fourth-largest installer in California.

Horizon Solar Power, which came in fifth place, appears to be focused largely on California. The company is notable for its recent merger with Solar Spectrum, which was formed after Sungevity re-emerged from bankruptcy.

Overall there are now 13 residential installers in California with a greater than 1% market share, while there were only 9 in 2016. Which means that even amid the many changes, California’s residential solar market remains competitive.

These installers are now fighting for a share of a market on the rebound, with Ohm Analytics’s analysis of permit data showing that installations grew 14% year-over-year in Q1 2018.

Of course, this was before the biggest game-changer of all. California’s mandate that solar must be installed on all new homes will not only grow the market substantially, but is likely to boost the market shares of the biggest installers with national presence. This includes SunPower and PetersenDean, as they are in the best position to negotiate volume deals with large homebuilders.

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