US residential solar: 72% third-party owned

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The latest GTM Research report "U.S. Residential Solar Financing 2015-2020" shows that 72% of the 2.1GW of residential solar installed in the U.S. last year is third-party owned in the form of leases and PPAs whereas the remainder is directly owned by the customer. Customer owned systems are financed largely through loans, says the report.

Financial solutions like leases have lent a hand to the development of the U.S. residential market segment which grew 15 out of the last 16 quarters. The concept of third-party ownership got popular a few years and has since provided customers from all walks an affordable solution to purchase a solar installation. By 2020 however GTM Research predicts that direct ownership will surpass third-party ownership in the segment accounting for 54% of the forecasted 5.2GW.

Three companies led the pack as top financiers for U.S. residential solar installations in 2014: SolarCity, Vivint Solar and Sunrun. These three companies financed 56% of all residential installations. SolarCity accounted for 34% while Vivint Solar had a 12% share followed by Sunrun with 10%. Other leading financiers were SunPower, NRG Home Solar, Sunnova and white label finance provider Clean Power Finance.

Solar analyst Nicole Litvak states that every third-party ownership financier has introduced or is planning to introduce a loan, and an entirely separate group of pure-play loan providers has emerged. "Many of these new loans are structured such that they offer customers the same year-one savings as a lease or PPA," she adds.