Solar usage and installation was on the upswing earlier this year, with enough momentum to potentially reach 33% growth by the end of 2020, according to the latest Solar Market Insight Report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Then a global pandemic disrupted that trajectory.
This year’s first quarter clearly marked improvements in solar installations, with Florida, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, and Virginia all seeing record-breaking quarters. SEIA’s report attributes the increases to “strong solar resources, declining installation costs, and incentives.” Since Q1 2019, residential installations were up nearly 90% (see graph).
Then coronavirus spread across the US and business went from a run to walk, to crawl, and in some cases it stopped moving entirely. “At a basic level, shelter-in-place orders have significantly limited solar businesses from engaging in the face-to-face interaction that is a cornerstone of the residential customer-acquisition process,” the report reads. In some parts of the country, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, governments issued prohibitions on door-to-door canvassing, which is fundamental to the solar sales process. In some “extreme” cases, as the report puts it, like New York, construction work in large part was ordered to a halt.
SEIA’s projections for annual solar growth have ultimately been reduced by 9%
At least One Silver Lining
There isn’t a lot of good business news coming out of quarantine, but one small silver lining we’ve found is from Tesla. The company is boasting its “lowest price for home solar” ever, which was made possible in part by a shift in the sales process. A blog post from Tesla reads: “The move to a digital experience helped cut our sales and marketing costs by 64 percent. We used these savings to make solar more affordable for customers, and also to build software that improves the experience of going solar.”
Tesla claims that with its new prices, the average homeowner in California buying its large system—which costs about $23,500—will recoup their money in six years through reduced electric bills, and ultimately make $88,000 throughout the system’s lifetime. In New Mexico, it says the same system will make $55,000. The company adds that "savings will vary based on state laws and local utility rates.”
Along with its reduced prices, Tesla also introduced a price-match guarantee.