Third-party PV ownership closes in on 75% of installs in CA

Third-party PV ownership closes in on 75% of installs in CAThe rise in popularity of third-party owned (TPO) systems for residents is as astounding as the price drops in photovoltaics over the past few years. A new PV Solar Report study done with SunRun found that 73.4 percent of homeowners in California that are choosing solar are doing so with a TPO-financed system rather than buying it outright.

That’s not bad considering that such models really started taking off just a few years ago.

SunRun for instance, started offering its solar power service in 2007. In fact, TPO, which includes power-purchase agreements and solar leases, first surpassed outright purchases last July. And the option has room to grow, according to SunRun spokesperson Susan Wise.

“I think it can become a greater percentage of the market,” she said.

The market certainly seems to be trending that way. TPO solar grew 174 percent in the first two months of 2012 compared to the first two months of 2011, according to the report.

TPO isn’t the only option or the ideal option for all homeowners.

“It’s best for consumers to have options,” Wise said.

Before a homeowner chooses to go solar, she has to consider a number of things including whether or not she’ll save money over her current electric bill with a TPO, whether shading on the roof will make the payback less feasible, and other factors.

One reason TPO is growing so quickly is because it includes little to no upfront costs for solar and can lower people’s electric bills.

“When given a choice between owning and not owning it and not paying as much out of pocket, they’re choosing the solar service,” Wise said.

California, which has the nation’s largest population, is the largest market for solar. It also has the best reporting on installations through the California Solar Initiative. But the trend isn’t only happening in California.

SunRun has seen TPO models grow increasingly popular in other states where the company operates, including Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

“This is seen as the majority preference in most markets,” Wise said.