Will there be an EPC shortage in 2016?

Commercial solar project developer REC Solar just acquired Soligent's Stellar Energy unit, a large solar engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) company based in California. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

With the acquisition, REC Solar adds more than 60 megawatts to its portfolio of installed or under-construction projects and picks up 28 megawatts of O&M contracts.

Utility giant Duke Energy became a majority owner of REC Solar earlier this year and is aiming to invest up to $225 million in REC's solar projects. Duke's Energy Renewables unit has a commercial renewable portfolio totaling about 1,800 megawatts of solar and wind capacity.

Jonathan Doochin, CEO of Soligent, told GTM that Stellar has seen triple-digit percentage growth on a year-over-year basis. He notes that Stellar offers an end-to-end solution just like REC Solar -- both firms doing everything from leads to selling, financing and installing the project.

He added that Stellar was a bit of a conflict with Soligent's 5,000-strong dealer base, "so we fully doubled down on the distribution business." Doochin told us previously that his goal is to "accelerate adoption of solar while making independent solar dealers more competitive and profitable." 

REC Solar's CEO Al Bucknam told GTM in a previous interview, "It's no secret that the industry is going through a consolidation -- and that's going to continue. As the ITC expires, your cost structure is going to matter a lot."

Yesterday Bucknam told GTM, "Stellar Energy is a...natural fit," adding, "We just closed the transaction and are hitting the ground running. It's very gratifying to see it taking shape so quickly."

Utility moves into commercial solar include NextEra's acquisition of Smart Energy Capital, NRG's formation of Sunora Energy and Edison International's purchase of SoCore.

GTM Research solar analyst Nicole Litvak suggests that REC Solar is "making sure it will have enough EPC capabilities for its 2015-2016 pipeline without having to compete with other developers for EPCs on individual projects."  GTM Research's MJ Shiao asks, "With tons of capacity to get built but limited EPC capabilities -- will there be an EPC shortage in 2016?"

REC Solar installation at Turtle Bay, Hawaii

Community solar data nuggets from GTM Research  

Here are a few nuggets from GTM Research's upcoming report, U.S. Community Solar Market Outlook, 2015-2020.

  • 21 megawatts of community solar came on-line in the U.S. in 2014
  • GTM Research is forecasting 115 megawatts in 2015 and 534 megawatts in 2020
  • Minnesota currently has 1.5 megawatts of community solar on-line, but a 743-megawatt pipeline. GTM Research forecasts Minnesota to deploy 18.1 megawatts of community solar in 2015.
  • 66 megawatts of community solar projects are operating in the U.S. today

The largest community solar project in the U.S.

The opportunity in this high-growth, sometimes-mandated market is not lost on SolarCity, which just teamed up with Minnesota's Sunrise Energy Ventures "to offer renters, schools, municipalities, and homeowners who cannot install photovoltaic panels on their properties access to affordable solar power."

The largest community solar project in the U.S. comes from SolarCity and Sunrise in Minnesota. The partners are looking to develop up to one hundred 1-megawatt community solar installations. According to a release, "SolarCity’s community solar subscribers will remain Xcel Energy customers and enter into its local Solar Reward Community Program, in which they will now be able to offset a portion of their electricity bill with credits received from Xcel Energy for their subscription to the solar community gardens for up to 25 years."

The program is scheduled to start at the end of this year.  

Enphase Energy's 900 kW community solar installation

Add another 1 megawatt to the community solar market. Enphase Energy and Massachusetts-based solar installer and developer My Generation Energy just finished and commissioned a 900-kilowatt commercial system for a community solar application in Marion, Mass.

Suntility Electric and My Generation maintain the system and "manage its net-metering credit allocations" to the co-op. 

The installation used Enphase's "commercial" microinverters supporting three-phase 480VAC installations, HelioScope software for the design, and 3,200 LG Solar photovoltaic modules assembled onto a Unirac ground-mount array.