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Solar PV Reaching New Demographics through Third-Party Ownership

May 1, 2012

Title: Transformation of California's Residential Photovoltaics Market Through Third-Party Ownership
Authors: Easan Drury, Mackay Miller, Donna Heimiller, and Tod Perry, NREL; Charles M. Macal, Diane J. Graziano, and Jonathan Ozik, Argonne National Laboratory

Third-party PV ownership, where commercial companies own and operate customer-sited PV systems and lease PV equipment or sell PV electricity to the building occupant, is growing. Third-party PV companies can reduce or eliminate up-front adoption costs, reduce technology risk and complexity by monitoring system performance, and repackage the PV value proposition by showing cost savings in the first month of ownership rather than payback times on the order of a decade. This report finds third-party business models in southern California residential PV markets have enticed a new demographic to adopt PV systems. Compared to traditional PV customer demographics, the new customers tend to be younger, less affluent, and less educated. By enticing new demographics to adopt PV, third-party PV products are likely increasing total PV demand rather than gaining market share entirely at the expense of existing customer-owned PV.

—Jim Leyshon