American Roll Form has watched—and participated in—the solar industry’s rapid expansion in recent years. As the photovoltaics industry matures, several key factors will play into its ability to gain traction in the utility space.
Photo credit: Taylor Radey
Here are four trends that will impact the course of solar in the months and years ahead:
1. The Disruption of the Utility Market
The main impact of solar’s emergence is its ripple effects in the well-established utility market. Initially seen as a threat, some utility companies are starting to invest in solar energy, either through unregulated subsidiaries or utility leasing programs.
Major utility companies often own the means of production, but high installation costs still create barriers to entry in this space. However, recent financial innovations such as securitization and third-party owned residential leasing are creating new models for the buying, selling and financing of solar. In combination with other sources, solar is a smart “hybrid” option for many utility providers.
2. The Rise of Residential, Community and Group-Owned Solar
While the initial financial investment is high, photovoltaic (PV) systems offer nearly free energy and relatively low maintenance costs. Self-sufficient energy generation remains challenging, but community and group-owned solar allows neighbors to share both costs and outputs, while residential solar leasing enables households to rent the means to energy independence. Both are likely to expand the adoption of solar among consumers.
3. The Evolution of Solar Storage
Currently solar storage is expensive, with costs around $1,000 / kWh. Reducing the cost of solar storage is crucial to off-grid solar deployment and would maximize utility companies’ profit potential. On the consumer side, affordable solar storage could allow individuals to secure reliable off-the-grid power. Investments in technology and innovation could make great strides in driving down prices.
4. The Birth of “The Internet of Things”
From EnergyHub and EcoFactor to Google’s recent purchase of Nest, the “Internet of things” or web-tied devices, is finding its way into the homes of consumers. The particular subset of home energy management—products geared toward home security, appliances, lighting, heating/cooling, etc.—will likely influence consumers’ interest in, and control over, utilities and energy consumption patterns.
As U.S. household electricity consumption declines and traditional energy costs increase, technological and energy efficiency advances will help make distributed solar an even more attractive option in the future.
For more on trends in the energy sector, read our post on shortening oil and gas equipment lifecycles.