The American solar market is at a turning point. By next year, loans or cash purchases for residential systems will outpace third-party ownership. Third-party offerings have dominated the U.S. residential market since 2012.
By 2021, nearly three-quarters of systems installed on homes will be directly owned by customers, according to the latest analysis on residential solar finance from GTM Research.
For proof that the ownership trend is accelerating, just look to solar financial news from the past week.
This morning, residential solar loan provider Mosaic said it closed a $250 million credit facility with Deutsche Bank to support tens of megawatts of new projects. This is the third big pay day for Mosaic this year. In April, it signed a $200 million credit facility with the fourth-largest bank in Germany, and in August it closed an equity round worth $220 million.
Mosaic says it now offers loans to 21 of the 25 residential installers in the U.S. According to GTM Research, the company was the leading provider of solar loans in the first half of this year.
By next year, Mosaic wants to originate $1 billion worth of loans for residential PV systems. That amounts to roughly 200 megawatts of systems. But this isn't enough to meet the market's appetite.
In 2017, roughly 1 gigawatt of residential systems will be customer-owned. So Mosaic's capital raise could, in theory, only meet 20 percent of the residential market.
“Despite the rise of direct ownership, many loan providers have struggled to raise enough capital to meet this demand. The amount Mosaic has raised this year is a step in the right direction, but the market will need much more — from Mosaic and others — to fund an increasing number of loans over the next several years,” said Nicole Litvak, a senior solar analyst at GTM Research.
Seeing this need, another company stepped into the burgeoning loan market.
Last week, EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar comparison shopping, started offering loans directly to solar companies. The company partnered up with BlueWave, Renew Financial and Wunder Capital to offer residential and commercial loans directly to installers. Although loans are becoming much more popular, there are still many local installers using the EnergySage platform that don't offer financial products. EnergySage wanted to fill that gap.
“EnergySage's decision to offer loans directly to customers who can't get financing from their installer is a clear indication that there is demand from homeowners who want to purchase rather than lease,” said Litvak.
The company also launched a new community solar product today. EnergySage's comparison tool now covers community solar projects across the U.S, allowing a much broader range of residential customers to search for solar offerings.
And in other community solar news this past week, NRG opened up its 14.7-megawatt shared-PV project at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. And Arcadia Power launched a new software tool to makes billing and searching for community solar programs simpler for consumers.
There was new activity in commercial solar this week as well. On Friday, Soltage closed $70 million in debt and tax equity with Basalt Infrastructure to grow its portfolio of commercial, industrial and utility-scale projects. Another $70 million is expected to close within the first half of next year.
Soltage continues to diversify its project pipeline by targeting landfills, municipal offtakers, front-of-meter projects through PURPA, and community solar. CEO Jesse Grossman said the company is eyeing opportunities “in all 50 states.”
The company is also making headway with large corporate offtakers, which are becoming an increasingly important part of the solar market. “They’ve got the infrastructure, capital and brain power. You have fortune 1000 companies that are also really talking about this. They’re massive energy consumers,” said Grossman.
Also last week, New Jersey developer National Energy Partners closed a $15-million equity fund with Forum Equity Partners to support large scale projects serving commercial and municipal customers.
And there's been another development in the SunEdison saga. On Friday, Brookfield Asset Management — a company with $250 billion in real estate and energy projects — made a cash offer for SunEdison's Terraform Power YieldCo at $13 for Class A and Class B shares.