U.S. residential solar market contracts 17% during Q1

When three Top 10 solar states see significant declines in installed residential solar capacity, it’s going to slow the country’s overall growth significantly. But thankfully, in true U.S. fashion, other solar states are there to pick up the slack while those three recover.

GTM Research, in partnership with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), will soon release the Q2 2017 U.S. Solar Market Insight report, indicates that lulls in California, New York and Massachusetts led a 17% nationwide decline in new residential capacity in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same time last year. The report also indicates residential capacity dropped 11% from the final quarter of 2016.

As pv magazine has reported, California’s residential capacity numbers dropped significantly in the first quarter, the result in part of an unusually wet winter that inhibited installers’ ability to get out in the field. Other factors in California’s decline include rocky transitions by the state’s investor-owned utilities to Net Metering 2.0, as well as turmoil in the residential installer segment with the bankruptcies of Heliopower and Sungevity.

The report says it also reflects the shift of SolarCity and Vivint Solar shifting from a rapid capacity-growth to a financial-stability strategy.

The GTM/SEIA report says California’s residential capacity dropped 22% from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017. The market’s decline is even starker year on year, with a 31% decline from 284 MW (DC) to 196 MW (DC).

But the report isn’t all doom-and-gloom – far from it. While residential installation capacities have fallen significantly in three big driver states, new states are emerging. In particularly, the report highlights growth in New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas (read Americas Editor Christian Roselund’s definitive article on the Texas market) and Utah, on whose growth pv magazine has reported before.

In addition, the report cites residential solar spikes in Pennsylvania and Florida – not states generally on the solar industry’s radar – are gathering momentum although, as expected, the growth won’t be anywhere close to enough to replace the California slide.

As the solar industry matures, one thing remains clear: It must continue to innovate. The report suggests the easily convertible customers have been reached, so now it’s time for the industry to move on to its second phase to go after customers who may be slightly more difficult to sell on the concept. Reports from the GTM Solar Summit also indicate experts are looking at solar software developments as potential game-changers as well.