SolarCity installs more than 1/3 of all U.S. residential solar in 2015


SolarCity continues its dominance of the U.S. residential solar sector, according to GTM Research. The company's Leaderboard service reports puts the SolarCity's share of the U.S. residential market at 34.1% over the first three quarters of 2015.

Vivint Solar came in second, with an 11.6% market share, followed by Sunrun, NRG Home Solar and Sungevity. Sunrun bills itself as the “largest dedicated residential solar company in the United States”, however in terms of systems the company installs directly its market share was only 2.6%.

These figures are different when you count the systems financed by Sunrun but installed by partner companies. Under that metric Sunrun's share rises to 10% during Q3, however this is still behind Vivint's 11% market share.

“They are almost neck-and-neck right now,” GTM Research Solar Analyst Nicole Litvak told pv magazine. “Next year could be the year that Sunrun surpasses Vivint.”

While Sunrun is vying with Vivint for #2, the distance between SolarCity and its competitors continues to grow. Litvak notes that the company has been growing throughout 2015, and reached a market share of nearly 37% in the third quarter.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said on the company's Q3 results call that SolarCity planned to slow growth and focus on becoming profitable in preparation for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) drop-down. As such, last week's extension of the ITC could potentially lead to a change in strategy.

Together, the top five companies represent over 50% of the residential market, but Litvak notes that this is nothing new. She also says that there is still a lot of opportunity for small- to mid-sized installers.

“The market is also growing so fast that a lot of other installers outside the top five, including some of the second-tier regional installers, there is still a lot of room for them to grow,” explains Litvak.

The extension of the U.S. ITC may also benefit these smaller companies. Litvak notes that many of these companies are dependent upon loans and cash sales. These business models were expected to be impacted more by the ITC drop-down than third-party sales, as the credit was scheduled to no longer be available for individuals.

As the ITC has been extended for another three years, that is no longer the case.

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