US residential solar set for a record-breaking year — despite, and because of, 2020

Posted by on October 9, 2020 in News

US residential solar set for a record-breaking year — despite, and because of, 2020

P Magazine
Eric Wesoff
9 October 2020 –

With folks housebound by Covid-19 restrictions and more conscious of their home energy needs, April proved a banner month for companies generating digital leads through their own accelerated transition to a new way of working.

Over the course of this strange year, American residential solar companies such as Sunrun, Vivint, Sunpower and Tesla claimed they could weather the Covid-19 storm with remote selling and new online strategies.

It turns out they were right.

BloombergNEF is forecasting that Americans will install a record 3 GW of solar on the roofs of their homes, although those figures might not match expectations from simpler times, in late 2019.

Source: BloombergNEF, note: 2020 and 2021 are forecasts

BNEF forecasts another 3.6 GW to be installed in 2021.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, capital is still pouring into solar.

U.S. solar manufacturer Sunpower recently announced a $1 billion partnership with Silicon Valley credit union Tech CU that will give the former access to capital for its loan program. The partnership provides financing opportunities for potential U.S. residential solar and energy storage customers. Tech CU is one of the 20 largest credit unions in California.

The combination of online sales strategies and a new set of homebound, energy-curious customers has enabled the market to grow in a cataclysmic year.

“The push for renewables is really strong,” said Tara Narayanan, an analyst quoted in the Bloomberg Green piece. “It’s allowed the sector to shake off the worst of the plague and some natural disasters.”

Resiliency

As we’ve reported, Covid-19’s sudden arrival put resiliency at the forefront of people’s minds and accelerated adoption of digital sales practices.

“We’re seeing a lot of success in the conversion to digital sales,” said Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich in a quarterly earnings call. “We’ve taken how the industry would have evolved – probably in two years – and we’ve done it in a month. I’m very encouraged by this transition and what it can mean for acquisition costs.”

During Q1 earnings calls, Vivint and Sunrun’s CEOs both said that April was a banner month in terms of digital leads. Enphase Energy also noted that it was seeing an increase in digital leads and in traffic to its online store.

“Early indications are that even if the country enters a prolonged economic downturn with poor consumer confidence, people will still want solar,” Jurich said during Sunrun’s earnings call.