Commercial solar is the most fragmented segment of the U.S. solar market, with numerous companies involved in any single project.
In a free research note, GTM has aggregated data from the top engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) providers, project developers, asset owners and other leading companies in the U.S. commercial solar market. The resulting ranking shows the biggest players in today’s downstream U.S. commercial solar industry. These 15 companies were involved in half of all commercial solar capacity installed in 2017, either as a developer, EPC, financier and/or long-term owner.
Source: “Who’s Who” of Commercial Solar
Note that some of the capacity in the rankings could overlap -- projects owned by one company could be developed by another company. In the context of the analysis, "commercial solar" refers to distributed, behind-the-meter projects with non-residential offtakers.
SunPower, Tesla and NRG -- developers with more than 100 megawatts each -- helped to deploy nearly a quarter of the commercial solar market in 2017.
SunPower is a clear leader based on both its direct installation business and channel partner business, which was the main source of SunPower’s 2017 growth. While SunPower doesn’t conduct the actual installations for its commercial channel partners, it is involved in multiple steps of the development cycle including customer lead generation, marketing, financing and project design. This strategy allows SunPower to tap into multiple segments of the commercial market -- its direct business focuses on large (1+ megawatt) projects, whereas its channel partners target small to medium-sized commercial solar projects (<1 megawatt).
Beyond SunPower, there is a clear competitive advantage for developers who also own their projects -- a trend GTM Research reported on in the fall. Tesla owns 90 percent of its commercial projects, and its 2017 installations grew by 2 percent, despite downturns in its residential solar business. NRG's and NextEra’s commercial solar projects multiplied in 2017, thanks in large part to community solar.
In a fragmented sector, having more control over multiple steps in the value chain appears to be a winning strategy. As long as developer-owners continue to benefit from this strategy, they will stay at the top of the commercial market.
Download the free report and ranking here.
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