This year’s Super Bowl is set to be one for the ages, assuming they can keep the lights on. Denver, the NFL’s number-one offense, is pitted against the number-one defense, Seattle. If there were such a thing as a Solar Super Bowl, the matchup of Colorado against Washington probably wouldn’t be nearly as exciting as Sunday’s game. But we’ll try anyway.
Colorado's market, like its quarterback Manning, is more mature. With nearly 17,000 cumulative installations, Colorado ranks number five in the country, according to GTM Research's most recent Solar Market Insight report.
Washington is an up-and-comer, like Russell Wilson, trying to make its place in the market. As of Q3 2013, there were 3,260 installations across the state.
In Q3 2013, Colorado installed 13.1 megawatts of solar PV, more than six times the amount Washington installed during the same period.
According to solar analyst and armchair quarterback Cory Honeyman, a large portion of Colorado’s capacity has shifted from residential to non-residential systems. The residential market shrank 18 percent quarter-over-quarter to 5.5 megawatts in Q3; however, this sector will likely rebound, as Xcel Energy expanded its residential Solar*Rewards rebate program last year.
Honeyman described Colorado’s growth in the non-residential market, which climbed from 6.2 megawatts in Q2 to 7.6 megawatts in Q3. He said this increase was aided in part by three community solar projects that came on-line during that period. Xcel’s Solar*Rewards incentives for systems 10.1 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts were exhausted in October. The slowdown in commercial installations over the next few quarters may be offset by the completion of additional community solar gardens, many of which are expected to come on-line by February 2014.
“Like Manning’s late-game heroics, Colorado's installations may have surged in Q4 of last year,” said Honeyman. The numbers are still pouring in and will be available in March’s Solar Market Insight report.
When asked about Washington’s past performance, Honeyman described the market as an underdog, consistently failing to break into the top ten solar states.
Just as Colorado’s football team has a star lineup of receivers to throw the ball to in Welker, Decker, Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas, the state has a number of major installers like SolarCity, Real Goods Solar and REC Solar spurring PV growth. In contrast, few big names come to mind when looking at Seattle’s receiving corps. And in the same manner, the lack of third-party solar ownership has kept the big installers out of the state and the installation figures below average.
In order to become more competitive, Washington's solar market needs to take a page from the Seahawks' playbook and find its own version of Beast Mode, be it TPO, state policy, or another innovation.
Nicole Litvak, solar analyst and avid Patriots fan, refused to comment on the story.