While non-residential PV actually grew 22% year-over-year in Q3 of 2017, it then dropped 34% quarter-over-quarter in the first quarter of 2018. Community solar and on-site commercial solar have been strong segments of the non-residential solar market in recent years, with each having strong selling points to their respective markets: Community solar, set up by utilities, can help a commercial business meet its renewable energy targets without having to install solar directly on its property, while on-site commercial solar can be designed specifically for businesses to meet their individual corporate or financial objectives, according to data from GTM Research. The US residential and non-residential solar market totals over 16 gigawatts of power, and solar has become more accessible and economically feasible, but new challenges continue to make new solutions necessary and growth has been inconsistent.
Because commercial-scale solar generally depends on custom-built solutions, they generally have longer sales and installation processes, and customer acquisition can be a struggle for solar companies. Large commercial customers are often needed in order to anchor a solar program structure – and when policy factors and sporadic demand of eco-minded business leaders come into play, those anchors can be difficult to find.
Following on the Heels of Rough Residential
The third quarter of 2017 showed the beginnings of a slowdown in the residential sector of solar, with GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) finding that Q3 2017 was the US solar industry’s toughest quarter in two years. While non-residential PV actually grew 22% year-over-year in that same quarter, it then mimicked residential’s fall, dropping 34% quarter-over-quarter in the first quarter of 2018.
Voluntary procurement by utilities is the largest driver of utility-scale PV, but corporate procurement/offsite commercial and industrial is creeping up, now accounting for 10% of projects in development. GTM Research forecasts flat growth in 2018 vs. 2017. However, total installed US PV capacity is expected to more than double over the next five years.
Driving the Solar Industry
SEIA is a driving force behind solar energy and is building a strong solar industry to power America through advocacy and education, the organization says. As the national trade association of the US solar energy industry, which now employs more than 250,000 Americans, SEIA represents all organizations that promote, manufacture, install and support the development of solar energy.