And as online comparison shopping is how we typically buy airline tickets, book hotels and perform other tasks, sooner or later this model was going to come to solar PV. And unsurprisingly, these shopping tools are changing the dynamics of selling solar.
Today online solar marketplace EnergySage introduced its third Solar Marketplace Intel Report, providing analysis of data from the hundreds of thousands of bids which have been offered through the platform in the first half of 2016.
The first and perhaps largest conclusion is that the PV systems offered on the EnergySage platform are significantly less expensive than the national average, with costs that continue to decline.
The average bid for a residential PV system sold through EnergySage marketplace fell 3% to $3.57 per watt in the first half of 2016. Additionally, the marketplaces median price of $3.63 per watt in the second half of 2015 is around $0.50 per watt below the median paid by customers nationally, as reported by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs.
It is important to note that these are not apples-to-apples comparisons, as EnergySages customers represent only a portion of the overall market, and that EnergySage is giving information on the bids that are offered, not the ones chosen. In previous interviews with pv magazine, EnergySage CEO Vikram Aggarwal noted that customers on the marketplace typically do not select the lowest bid.
And while LBNL is the definitive source for residential system cost numbers, it is also only a sample. One significant factor is that as prices for solar PV vary according to geography, the different geographic mix of EnergySages customers will influence these numbers.
However, this year EnergySage also provided state-level data, wherein it shows lower median prices for quotes than LBNLs median prices in a number of leading state solar markets, including California and Massachusetts.
One key way that EnergySage shoppers differ from national PV system customers is a much higher portion of direct ownership. The company reports that 96% of the customers using its marketplace choose to either buy their systems with cash or take out loans instead of participating in third-party solar arrangements, whereas nationally only 45% of customers own their own systems.
The report also shows that the marketplace for loans is increasingly fragmented, as new entrants take market share away from established players. While Admirals Bank and Sungage Financial offered 50% of the loans on the EnergySage marketplace in the first half of 2015, this share has fallen to less than 25% in the first half of 2016, with Primary Residential Mortgage, Mosaic and Home Loan Investment Bank all gaining market share.
Nearly half of loans offered were in the 16-20 year range, and interest rates were typically 5-8%, although there was a wide distribution of rates and terms.
Finally, while installers working through the EnergySage marketplace are typically offering multiple PV module brands, LG and SolarWorld are the leading PV module brands, with more than 50% of quotes. These installers are typically offering fewer inverter options, and here SolarEdge and Enphase dominate, with a combined share of nearly 75%.