SunRun sees 2012 as a “Darwinian” year for solar

SunRun sees 2012 as a “Darwinian” year for solar2012 is starting to peak around the corner and people, and companies are starting to make their projections for what the New Year will bring.

Residential third-party ownership company SunRun has stepped forward with its projections for 2012, which include Darwinian industry consolidation, led by increased competition among many sectors of the solar industry. That being said, SunRun is optimistic about its opportunities in 2012.

The company projects that in 2012 solar players will have to evolve, innovate or become irrelevant and fail. That will be led by PV module price drops, which SunRun said could fall up to 20 percent more in 2012—putting even more competitive pressure on manufacturers to lower costs. The potential end of incentives like the 1603 Treasury Grant Program will impact project developers and installers. Both price-drops and the end of incentives will foment industry consolidation, which could cause some painful consolidations but also will illustrate who the industry leaders are.

“Without the grant program consumers lose out because clean energy becomes more expensive and less accessible,” said SunRun spokesperson Susan Wise. “As a market leader we will continue our success without the grant program, but we prefer that it be extended so we can offer the most affordable solar to more homeowners and more middle-class families.”

On the more positive side, SunRun anticipates that advances in streamlining permitting processes and non-PV technologies will also help reduce the cost and barriers to solar installations.

The Department of Energy recently announced winners of its Rooftop Solar Challenge, an effort to streamline solar permitting for homeowners across regions.

“You are likely to see progress in these regions, among others,” Wise said.

New advances in software to support solar will also help reduce costs.

“Companies like SunRun, SolarCity and Sungevity use the Internet and other programs to evaluate the solar potential of a homeowners' roof,” she said. “We also expect increased use of software to streamline permitting, such as downloading and submitting permits electronically.”

The coming year also is likely to see an increase in homeowners with solar through third-party ownership.

“Solar leasing options could become 75 percent of the California residential solar market in 2012, with other states following suit,” Wise said.

The company could also enter new markets next year, according to Wise.

“New market entries depend on a number of factors including price of electricity in a particular state and the existence of supportive and fostering policies,” she said. “But expansion is the goal.”

But how 2012 will actually shake out and whether 1603 will be extended and other incentive programs remains to be seen.