Top Residential Solar Companies
Today, GTM Research and SEIA announced that 1.2 GW of residential solar were installed in 2014, the first time the residential segment surpassed the 1-gigawatt mark. While that’s plenty to go around for the thousands of installers operating in the U.S., the top five firms accounted for more than half of the overall market, according to the soon-to-be-released Q1 2015 GTM Research U.S. PV Leaderboard.
FIGURE: Leading U.S. Residential Solar Installers, 2014
For the second consecutive year, SolarCity and Vivint Solar took the top two spots by an ever-growing margin. These two firms alone installed more than half of all residential solar deployed in the second half of the year. The main attribute these installers share is the fact that they’re vertically integrated (in other words, they both finance and install all systems).
After slipping out of the top five in 2013, Sungevity has reached a record-high position at No. 3. In the past year, Sungevity launched operations in New Mexico, Vermont, Missouri and North Carolina and began offering Sunrun’s financing products in addition to its own. The company also uses subcontractors for installation, so all of its resources can be spent on acquiring customers, which it does exclusively over the phone.
Sunrun’s direct sales business (formerly the residential division of REC Solar) is the number four installer nationally and went on a hiring spree at the end of the year. Sunrun as a whole is much larger when you include systems sold by its channel partners, which still account for much more than the amount deployed by Sunrun Direct.
It’s very possible that this is the last time Verengo Solar, once the No. 2 installer, will appear on the Top 5 list. Most likely to replace it is NRG Home Solar, which recently acquired Verengo’s Northeast sales and operations teams. NRG’s parent company is placing a major focus on its residential division; as with Sunrun, this includes both direct sales and a channel partner approach.
Aside from Verengo, RGS Energy and Astrum Solar were the two other top-10 installers that experienced the weakest growth in 2014. RGS Energy has taken a number of steps over the past year to resolve its financial problems, from replacing its CEO to exiting the commercial sector. Just last week, RGS announced yet another restructuring plan that includes a 30 percent workforce reduction. However, the company has yet to see a turnaround in installations, which declined on a year-over-year basis in every quarter of 2014.
Likewise, Astrum Solar’s installations have decreased for the past several quarters after peaking in Q2 2014. This could have been a temporary setback, as the installer was integrated into Direct Energy, which acquired it in July, and in fact, Astrum today announced plans to double its staff. The acquisition gives Astrum access to Direct Energy’s 6 million residential customers.
Looking further down the list, there are many promising installers who saw tremendous growth in 2014 despite aggressive competition from the incumbent leaders, especially in the major residential growth states of California, Massachusetts and New York.
On the East Coast, these include New York-based Amergy Solar, which last week received the SunPower “Residential National Top Producer of the Year” for the second consecutive year, and Boston-based Next Step Living, an energy services company that uses free home energy assessments to get its foot in the door (literally).