Solar panel leasing company SunRun announced today that it is opening its operations in Maryland, the next state that’s friendly toward solar panel providers, said the company’s CEO Ed Fenster.
“It’s not dependent on budget cycle tax payer funding, it’s a natural gas-fired market and you expect power to get more expensive and it’s in the same wholesale market as New Jersey,” Fenster told VentureBeat. “The market is large, no reason to think the adoption rates in Maryland would be materially different from New Jersey.”
The decision to enter a new state is never taken lightly, he said. There are a lot of stars that have to align — both in terms of consumer demand and the regulatory environment — for it to be worthwhile when opening in a new state, he said. New Jersey was the last state SunRun expanded to, where it now has a 0.2 percent market penetration in terms of electricity generation.
“When we’re looking at what states to operate in, we look at first cut — where can we legally operate, which is not everywhere,” Fenster said.
SunRun installs and maintains panels for the duration of a lease and gives customers the option to buy the panels at the end of the lease. The electricity generated by the panels powers homes directly, taking some load off the electric grid. The company works in the “distributed solar” space, which is designed to help reduce some of the strain on power grids during peak usage hours when homes are drawing more electricity for air conditioning or, in the future, electric car charging.
SunRun has a market share of around 28 percent, though it fluctuates between 26 and 28 percent depending on the month, Fenster said. That means that 28 of every 100 homes installing solar panels on their roofs are leasing panels from SunRun. SolarCity is currently the second-largest provider of residential solar panels behind SunRun with a 14 percent share of the leasable solar panel market.
Google recently created a $280 million fund for residential solar power projects run by SolarCity. The fund gives SolarCity the capital it needs to create more reasonable financing options for homeowners who are interested in installing solar panels on their roofs but don’t necessarily have the cash to buy panels outright.
A study done by the University of California at Berkeley found that home values increase when solar panels are installed. The study found that homes with solar panels sold for an extra $5.50 per watt of solar power installed, for an average of $17,000 more per house. That goes against a lot of not-in-my-backyard arguments that have been plaguing clean energy providers because some homeowners see solar panels and wind turbines as an eyesore.