Hot Solar Market Can Lead to Other Energy Tech Opportunities

March 19, 2013
Don't think solar can lead to other sales: Non-traditional solar companies like Leviton and Vivint offer solar.

Don’t think solar can lead to other sales? Non-traditional solar companies like Leviton and Vivint offer solar. Photo courtesy of Leviton.

Solar power is red hot. You’d have to live in a cave not to realize that solar photovoltaic (PV) is growing at an accelerated rate. And solar’s growth and acceptance should lead to other business opportunities for green tech and energy efficiency professionals.

Last week GTM Research and SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) released a report that pegged the growth of solar installations in the United States in 2012 at 76 percent, reaching 3,313 megawatts.

“There were 16 million solar panels installed in the U.S. last year – more than 2 panels per second of the work day,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. There are now more than 300,000 PV systems operating across the United States.

Of the more than 90,000 solar installations in 2012, 83,000 were in the residential market alone, with meaningful growth in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York. Average residential system prices dropped nearly 20 percent in one year – from $6.16 per watt in Q4 2011 to $5.04 per watt in Q4 2012.

Can solar’s acceptance among homeowners lead to other opportunities? Home tech research firm Parks Associates recently found that 54 percent of solar owners show a high appeal for energy monitoring. Basic web portals typically offer solar system owners a peek at the solar array’s production, but that doesn’t include the home’s energy consumption, which is the next logical question. And the same goes for commercial installations, the vast majority of which neglect the monitoring of their buildings’ energy consumption.

In addition, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has revealed that energy use by home electronics and appliances is on the rise, as energy consumption by heating and cooling systems are in decline. Solar system owners are apt to be more sensitive to electrical systems usage.

An NREL and DOE report projects solar module costs will be about $.74 per watt in 2013—some claims are even lower—achieving what many feel is grid parity with other forms of energy. What that ultimately means is that solar will remain hot, spurring other business opportunities such as solar battery storage, PV to EV charging, automated load shedding, home control and automation, lighting control, LEDs, motorized window treatments, you name it..

Commercial and Utility Solar

The non-residential solar segment, which includes commercial, governmental, and non-profit systems, installed more than 1,000 MW in 2012, according to the GTM-SEIA report. Leading non-residential markets included California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Hawaii.

Utility installations represented 54 percent of total installed capacity, or 1,782 MW, with 152 utility solar installations in 2012, and eight of the ten largest projects in operation completed in 2012.

Rapid growth is expected in 2013 as well, due to lower system costs, and third-party financing mechanisms like solar leasing that is becoming available in more states.

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