Kenyon Energy, Key Equipment complete 6-MW solar project in Deerfield, Mass.

kenyon energy

Kenyon Energy, LLC in partnership with The Town of Deerfield, Key Equipment Finance, and Lake Street Development Partners, today announced that a 6-MW solar array in Deerfield, Mass., is due to begin commercial operation in November 2017.

The ground mount array comprises 18,720 high-efficiency solar panels and sits on about 23 acres of privately-owned land. In its first year, the array is projected to produce more than 7,200 MWh of electricity.

The solar array is the first to be installed in South Deerfield and could be groundwork for future solar energy projects. The Deerfield array marks an important step in the city’s sustainability initiatives, and the agreement sets a fixed property tax rate on the development over a span of 20 years, instead of it fluctuating based on a yearly valuation. The Town of Deerfield is expected to net a total of $1.24 million from this tax.

“We have been proud to work with Lake Street Development Partners, along with Key Equipment Finance, and The Town of Deerfield to complete this renewable installation,” said Ray Gonzalez, President of Kenyon Energy. “These efforts are part of the town’s long-term strategy to cut the environmental footprint and deliver long-term value to the businesses and communities where people live and work.”

Kenyon Energy, one of the nation’s leading solar technology and energy services provider, managed all aspects of the project from the point of arranging the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services, through the construction process and forward to commercial operation of the project. Key Equipment Finance, one of the nation’s largest bank-held equipment finance companies and an affiliate of KeyCorp, provided financing in the form of a sale leaseback supported by a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). With the closing of financing, Bay4 Energy Services will provide asset management services including operations and maintenance for the life of the system.

16 community solar projects across Massachusetts being financed by Key Equipment Finance

“Key Equipment Finance’s long-term partnership with Kenyon Energy enables them to monetize tax benefits, including investment tax credit and depreciation,” said Doug Beebe, vice president, energy finance, Key Equipment Finance. “Creative financing solutions like this make it possible for Kenyon Energy to own and operate solar projects and sell the power at a discounted rate to cities and towns like Deerfield, to support their sustainability goals.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Soltec trackers start to serve Australian solar market with new office

soltec trackers

Soltec, a leading manufacturer and supplier of single-axis solar trackers and related services in large-scale projects, is expanding to serve Australia with an office in Sydney. The new office will execute on Soltec‘s activities in the southern country, including project equipment supply that leverage Soltec’s 14 years’ history as PV tracking specialist.

Following on our customers’ successes in the Americas and about 2 GW supplied or underway, Soltec is leading in regional markets there. The company continues to execute its plan to invest in growing markets and expand supply capacity globally.

Soltec is a global supplier with regional operations that invest in local people and facilities to benefit both project successes and the local economy. The new subsidiary, registered as Soltec Australia Pty Ltd at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, rejoins APAC regional activity with the Soltec team in New Delhi, India.

“Australia is a pioneering country in renewable energy, especially in PV, and market economics are now favoring the follow-through to realization,” said CEO of Soltec Raúl Morales. “We are finding excellent response to Soltec’s SF7 tracker product combined with Soltec’s proven partnership reliability to make large-scale projects happen.”

The SF7 tracker is a mature standard product that enables cost-effective installation, operation, and innovation. Soltec is strategically prepared for large-scale project supply challenges with a 2.5 GW annual manufacturing capacity and the Solhub global supply system that assures product quality and project supply timeliness.

Case study: Prepping solar tracker systems in advance of a hurricane

— Solar Builder magazine

Vermont’s World Learning School adds 196-kW solar system via Sunwealth financing

Sunwealth

Sunwealth helped finance a solar project for the World Learning School for International Training (SIT) campus in Vermont, which originally wasn’t financially feasible.

“We have always been interested in renewables, but they can be cost prohibitive for organizations like ours,” said Kote Lomidze, Chief Financial Officer at World Learning. “Partnering with Sunwealth has given us access to an energy source that has been out of reach until now.”

Commercial solar development has traditionally been overlooked by banks and other financial institutions in favor of residential and utility-scale projects for two primary reasons: the lack of a credit rating system and the size of the projects.

Sunwealth’s proprietary underwriting process, however, ensures the credit worthiness of its commercial clients. In addition, Sunwealth’s approach minimizes transaction costs and provides investors with an attractive return potential and the opportunity to make a positive impact. The 196.5 kW World Learning project will help the national non-governmental organization achieve $10,000 in energy savings per year.

2017 Solar Builder Project of the Year Winners

“The World Learning project represents what we envisioned when launching Sunwealth,” said Jonathan Abe, Chief Executive Officer at Sunwealth. “It’s incredible to see how World Learning is putting its energy savings to work furthering the organization’s mission.”

Solar Design Associates, Inc. an Ayer, Massachusetts engineering firm, and Dynamic Organics, LLC a renewable energy developer located in Putney, Vermont, designed and constructed the World Learning solar project.

“As a local developer, we understand how every installation affects our community,” said Morgan Casella, Managing Partner at Dynamic Organics. “We’re proud to be part of a project team that helps create a more resilient economy right in our backyard.”

 

— Solar Builder magazine

GTM: Sunrun tops SolarCity as lease sales leader, and more residential solar sales stats

Sunrun logo

2017 isn’t quite the banner year for solar that 2016 was. Aside from the trade case drama, it has also been a tumultuous year for the big names in the residential solar space. Three of the largest installers, including NRG Home Solar, Sungevity and Direct Energy Solar, have gone bankrupt or exited the residential sector. Since struggling SolarCity was acquired by Tesla, its residential business has dwindled. But Sunrun, who has seen moderate and consistent deployment growth over the last few years, has worked to fill the gap and serves as a prime example that struggles in the residential solar industry may stem from company-specific failings rather than industry-wide trends. GTM Research saw this coming, and relayed the following stats on the residential solar sector.

sunrun solar city leases

As a residential lease and PPA provider, Q3 earnings presentations indicate that Sunrun has already surpassed SolarCity based on capacity financed so far in 2017. Through the first half of the year, Sunrun narrowly missed the top spot in the TPO market with 27% market share, just behind SolarCity’s 31% share and up considerably from its 18% share in 2016. That difference of 4% market share between SolarCity and Sunrun equated to just 19 MW over two quarters. And in Q3, Sunrun financed 80 MW of systems, while SolarCity financed no more than 59 MW (a ceiling, as some of SolarCity’s systems were from its commercial business), a difference in Sunrun’s favor of more than 20 MW.

Of course, there are other ways to look at the market outside of who is financing systems. Much of SolarCity’s fall as a top residential financier has been due to its deliberate pivot away from TPO financing in order to increase its cash position. Today, nearly half of SolarCity’s systems are sold for cash or loans, and this pivot is inextricably linked to loan provider Mosaic’s prominent position in the loan market.

But looking at the residential market by total deployments (including leases, PPAs, loans and cash sales), GTM says Sunrun likely surpassed SolarCity as the leader in the space for the third quarter of 2017. According to the U.S. Residential Solar Finance Update, SolarCity deployed 233 MW of residential solar in H1 2017, Sunrun deployed 148 MW, and Vivint Solar deployed 93 MW. Yet in Q3 2017, these companies deployed 109 MW, 90 MW, and 47 MW, respectively (SolarCity’s 109 MW includes its commercial business).

So, if 18% or more of SolarCity’s Q3 installations were in its commercial business (which is reasonable given SolarCity’s historic channel mix), then Sunrun would have narrowly out-installed SolarCity in the quarter.

New sales channels and finance offerings

sunrun solar city

Both SolarCity and Vivint have endured high customer acquisition costs as mature markets have become oversaturated, and the companies have been forced to scale back operations in unprofitable markets. Specifically, SolarCity has dropped its door to door sales channel and instead is focusing on acquiring customers through digital leads. Vivint Solar, which has traditionally relied primarily on door to door sales, has added retail sales to its mix. And while these customer acquisition strategy changes are aimed to bring costs down in the long term, the slow-moving transition to these new strategies has had a short term effect of increasing costs and decreasing sales.

Equally important, both SolarCity and Vivint Solar have made concerted efforts to increase cash and loans sales as a portion of their product mixes.

While the companies make better margins off their TPO products, years of selling leases and PPAs (where the companies receive payment from the customer over a 20 year term) have left both companies in dire need of cash in the near term. Cash and loan sales allow the installers to realize immediate payment for systems they install. But even this change comes at a cost. SolarCity and Vivint Solar employ salespeople who have been selling leases and PPAs for more than 10 and 5 years, respectively. The transition to selling loans has been difficult on sales teams that are forced to change their long-honed pitches, contributing to the sales declines by these companies.

But as nearly every other large national installation company has struggled to grow this year, Sunrun is a standout as its growth has outpaced the market. Unlike its largest competitors, Sunrun has seen customer acquisition costs come down in recent quarters. And unlike SolarCity and Vivint Solar, Sunrun services the market both through its direct installation business as well as with Sunrun leases and PPAs delivered through its dealer network. By utilizing a dealer network to deploy systems, Sunrun is able to grow as the long tail of installers in its network grow as well. And while not all long tail installers are growing, Sunrun’s stringent vetting of installer partners weeds out the weaker installation companies who are more likely to go in and out of business with market boom and bust cycles.

Fact: People want solar energy. Here are some stats on why

Is the residential solar financier shakeup here to stay?

As SolarCity and Vivint Solar have deliberately scaled back operations and moved away from employing a strictly vertically-integrated installer and financier model, Sunrun has jumped on the opportunity. Unlike its competitors, Sunrun continues to primarily sell TPO systems through its direct and installer network businesses.

But recent success for Sunrun does not guarantee continued success. While Sunrun is now the leading TPO financier in the residential solar market, questions remain as to the size of that addressable market. As the residential market grows into the future, GTM Research expects the TPO market to stay relatively flat through 2022, putting a ceiling on the market that Sunrun can address. The current transition of the market away from TPO, which, according to GTM Research, will make up just 37% of the residential market in 2017 as compared to 53% in 2016, is primarily due to what leading installers are choosing to sell.

But there is downside risk to the size of the addressable TPO market. As residential system costs continue to decline, consumer-driven demand for TPO financing could become a prevailing force squeezing that market, leaving Sunrun behind the curve. There is certainly ample opportunity for Sunrun to increase its market share with its leases and PPAs, though the company has little room for error in a market with a low ceiling.

— Solar Builder magazine

Fact: People want solar energy. Here are some stats on why

solar customer stats

See? They love it.

One truth that gets glossed over in the debate over how much or how little to incentivize solar energy as part of our energy future – people actively want it. Two reports were released last week to provide some more insight into who these people are and what they like about solar.

The 2017 Residential Solar Industry Study, an in-depth study of the residential solar market produced by market research firm Provoke Insights, surveyed 2,666 consumers nationwide and specifically examined consumer attitudes about purchasing solar power.

“People are motivated to buy solar because of the dramatic cost savings,” explains Carly Fink, principal, head of strategy and research, Provoke Insights. “The cost of residential solar to consumers has decreased by 40% over the past 5 years, making the decision to go solar completely viable for an increasing number of homeowners.”

The conversation about solar power is often initiated when neighbors see solar panels on other homes; approximately two-thirds of referrals are given in person. The study also revealed underlying factors in solar provider choice, looking at net promoter scores. Full disclosure: The Provoke Insights study was commissioned by SunPower and distributed in July 2017 to identify trends, purchasing patterns and customer insights.

Study highlights

  • 41% of those surveyed say that the primary reason for choosing solar is potential savings over time and protection against rate increases from the utility company.
  • More than half of solar users say that 75% of their electric bill is covered by solar.
  • Men are 66% more likely to be the decision-maker in purchasing a solar energy system. Political party affiliation does not dictate the choice to switch to solar.
  • Regarding aesthetics, roof orientation is a concern for 70% of solar energy users; panel aesthetics are a concern among 63% of women vs. 59% of men.
  • 66% of solar energy users would install a solar energy system again if they moved to a different house.
  • 50% of consumers will choose a solar provider based on the recommendation of a neighbor or friend.
  • Consumers use three primary payment methods to going solar: Paying cash (36%), financing with a lease (36%) and financing with a solar loan (28%).

Customers favor bundling

solar system bundling

Research firm Itron recently released a report, Non-Tariff Revenue Models for Energy Providers, showing 20-25% of homeowners in U.S. broadband households are interested in bundling energy with a home service such as HVAC, warranty, or home security. These findings were presented at the Smart Energy Summit, which focuses on energy efficiency, demand response, and home energy management solutions.

“Bundling solar with energy services received the most consumer interest — 40% of U.S. homeowners in broadband households are interested in bundling solar power purchasing with their electricity bill,” said Tom Kerber, Director, IoT Strategy, Parks Associates. “Roughly 25% of homeowners are interested in bundling HVAC maintenance services or home warranties with energy services. As retail energy providers experience narrowing margins in their core business, they are examining alternate strategies to build new revenues. At Smart Energy Summit, we examine these efforts to diversify and the role of smart home solutions in creating new opportunities.” generation, and energy efficiency offerings.

Other stats from the report:

  • 40% of U.S. broadband households are familiar with smart thermostats, but only 11% own one.
  • About 50% of U.S. households have smart meters, but the number of the utilities and energy providers offering time-varying rate structures is relatively small.
  • Over 50% of U.S. broadband households would purchase a smart device to manage energy consumption during TOU peak hours.
  • 38% of U.S. broadband households would purchase a smart thermostat for use in TOU programs.
  • 45% of U.S. broadband households have interest in TOU plans.
  • 22% of U.S. broadband households would purchase a $250 smart thermostat with a $100 mail-in rebate.

— Solar Builder magazine