Solar customers in Texas were offered the lowest average cost on a per-watt basis compared to other regions in the U.S., according to new data from EnergySage, a comparison-shopping website for solar systems.
The average gross cost of a solar energy system was $3.21 per watt, significantly lower than the national average of $3.69 per watt, according to EnergySage’s second Solar Marketplace Intel Report . In the Southwest region, including Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, three-quarters of the quotes were below $3.50 per watt.
Despite the low cost of solar in the state, the nine-year payback period in Texas is still slightly higher than the national average of just over eight years, according to EnergySage.
On the utility-scale side of the solar market, Texas has seen the cheapest solar bid solicitations to date, yet the distributed solar market in Texas remains stunted due to low natural-gas prices and the lack of net metering in the deregulated market structure.
Many of the other trends in the report, which covers all of 2015, were similar to those documented in the previous edition of the biannual report. Solar prices continue to decline, and there is a shift toward owning systems rather than leasing.
The trend of owning systems is more pronounced with EnergySage shoppers than it is with customers who choose SolarCity, the leading residential solar installer, which is not a participant in the EnergySage platform.
More than 90 percent of EnergySage customers choose to own their own systems, though customer-owned systems constitute less than 40 percent of the national market when all installers are included. SolarCity, however, is in the midst of designing a new, simplified loan product that should push the national average of customer-owned systems higher.
The bias toward owning a system is in place before the comparison shoppers even log on to EnergySage. The report found only 11 percent of customers came to the site looking for a third-party-financed solar system.
As with the inaugural edition of the report from six months ago, there was also a continued trend of leaders in equipment and lending dominating the market. In the inverter market, the trend was even more pronounced, with SolarEdge increasing its market share by more than 10 percent for the second half of the year. SolarEdge posted a record-setting quarter in terms of revenue in the fourth quarter of 2015.
The report also highlighted some new metrics, such as the fact that nearly all shoppers want quotes first and a site visit afterward. Many shoppers who came to the site were doing due diligence before choosing an installer; about one-third already had a quote in hand from another installer and wanted more quotes before choosing a solar system. Nearly half of shoppers said that the best value was their highest priority, with maximum production coming in second.
“As the market continues to mature and become more transparent, the buying and selling of solar will naturally become easier and more efficient for all parties involved,” EnergySage CEO Vikram Aggarwal said in a statement. “And as our data shows, we’re seeing this trend hold true for consumers who are increasingly seeking the benefits of online comparison-shopping.”