Every quarter, our ConveYour team assembles a newsletter digest of the biggest news, trends, and developments in the world of residential solar. This newsletter is sent out to our subscribers before it gets posted on the site.
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Solar News Off The Top
MarketWatch has released its list of Top 10 Best Solar Companies for 2023. Included in this year's list are names like Sunrun, Blue Raven Solar, and Elevation, among others.
SmartRoof Solar announced that it will be opening a new facility in Fairfax, VA. This is expected to create 400+ new jobs in the area.
A&R Solar announced the successful construction of a major community solar installation, the Alrington Microgrid in Washington state.
Solaria and Complete Solar have completed their merger and formed a new residential solar company,Complete Solaria. They will provide residential solar across the nation.
More than one million homes across Europe are now powered by solar - an increase of over 350,000 from 2021.
The Big Picture
As has become a tradition here on The Roundup, it’s time to take a big-picture look at how the residential solar industry is doing. Solar in general continues to be hampered by (say it with me, everyone!) supply chain problems. This impact was greatest felt by companies dealing in utility-scale solar, who have seen a 36% decrease in new installations as of Q3 2022. Overall, the solar industry is down about 17% from where we were last year.
HOWEVER, if you’ve been here for a while, you might already know that residential solar is a different beast entirely. In fact, residential was the only solar sector to continue to experience growth through Q3, up 43% over a year ago and 16% over the previous quarter. Residential solar is impacted less directly by current supply chain problems and is a strong indication that interest in solar is far from diminishing. In fact, solar is currently the most-installed electricity source in the country.
So where do we go from here? Does the supply chain actually get better? Will we be talking about these same problems forever? Experts see reasons to have hope. Research firm Wood Mackenzie announced in their 2022 Solar Market Insight Report that supply chain problems could resolve as early as the second half of 2023, with 21% average annual growth predicted for 2023-27.
“In the aftermath of the IRA, we cannot afford to waste time tinkering with trade laws as the climate threat looms.”- Abigail Ross Harper, President & CEO, SEIA
Solar Innovation Continues
While the solar supply may be lacking, there is no shortage of innovation in the world of sun-based renewable energy. It seems that every week there is a new breakthrough making solar lighter, cheaper, or more efficient.
Engineers at MIT presented a new solar panel technology this December. These cells are lightweight, flexible, and able to adhere to any surface. The solar cells are paper-thin and are printed with ink-based material onto Dyneema fabric, and perform comparably to typical solar panels. In fact, it would only take about 44 pounds of these cells to match a full rooftop’s worth of panels - and one panel alone weighs about 40 pounds! Researchers are still working to find a material to encase these panels to protect them from the elements while preserving their flexibility.
2022 also saw great advancement in transparent solar cell technology, with some of the first test applications producing encouraging results this year. While transparent panels cannot match the efficiency of standard solar cells, they open up a world of possibilities. Imagine having solar panels as your windows, seamlessly providing your home with energy without you even noticing. The trade-off between transparency and efficiency still needs work before the new technology can scale up, but the future is bright.
What Are The States Up To?
We’ve looked at the big picture, and we’ve explored some amazing new solar innovations. What has the greatest impact, though, is what’s happening at the local level. While the nation continues to become more solar-friendly overall, not every state has such an accepting position, and conflicting interests always seem to get in the way.
California, generally on the cutting edge of environmentally-forward policy, has finally passed changes to its net metering program for new solar installations. This has been a source of controversy all year, with proposed changes like an $8 per kilowatt monthly solar tax drawing ire from solar advocates. That tax was quickly discarded, and the rules that were passed are more friendly to solar installations but far from perfect. In many cases, utilities will now be allowed to reduce payments to homeowners for excess generated power by as much as 75%. However, it also comes with nearly $1 billion in incentives to get solar into more low-income homes, so time will tell how impactful the payment reduction ends up being.
Meanwhile, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) announced it had rejected proposed new charges from Michigan electric utility company DTE. The proposed change would leverage a monthly fee specifically for rooftop solar customers. This fee would have been based on the three highest-demand one-hour intervals of power and could end up costing customers as much as $100 per month. The proposal would also slash credits to customers adding excess power to the grid. In a win for residential solar, this proposal was outright rejected by the MPSC.
Solar Spotlight: VITL Power
This quarter’s Solar Industry Company Spotlight goes out to VITL Power. Headquartered out of the “Silicon Slope” of Lehi, Utah in 2019, VITL has experienced explosive levels of growth over the past few years. Now boasting 20 offices covering 33 states,500+ employees, and over 3000 new solar installs per year, the VITL team has quickly made a name for themselves in the residential solar industry.
In addition to their hustle, we admire VITL for their care and commitment to The Rep’s Journey. This is a business that’s firmly in lockstep with its sales team, boasting a unique scheduling system that allows them to maximize performance while still maintaining that coveted work-life balance.
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