A Review Of The Solar Energy Market in California

Have you ever wondered why California is regarded as the best market for solar energy? The state enjoys important factors including supportive renewable energy policies and enough sunny days. Solar companies are also an important component of the success of the market. Moreover, consumers are becoming more receptive to solar energy generation and delivery. The market has substantial opportunities for even more growth amidst legal and financing challenges.

What is The State Of The Market?
As the leading solar market state in the US, California has more installations than countries such as Australia, Belgium, United Kingdom and Spain. As of 2015, the state had surpassed the 10,000 MW mark of installed solar energy capacity. Its 11,535 MW installed capacity can cater for the energy demands of more than 2,891,000 households.

Of the 718MW of the solar PV that was installed in the first quarter of 2015, 399MW was utility scale, 88MW was commercial and 231MW was residential, according to the US Solar Market Insight Report.

The report projects record growth for the national solar market in the coming years. Of great interest is the expected pick-up in non-residential markets of leading states such as New York and California.

Boosted by renewable energy-friendly tariffs, onsite solar procurement and emergence of community solar at the state level, non-residential solar is expected to grow by 21% in 2015.

Probably, you have noticed an increase in the number of rooftop solar installations in your neighborhood. You may also be wondering whether you should take advantage of the programs and incentives offered by the government. There is so much to choose from in terms of solar companies, installations and programs.

Major Players in the State
California is home to thousands of solar energy companies, both old and new. How can a consumer choose a solar installation company in California? Well, this depends on several factors including quality of solar panels, cost and reputation of the company. However, even before coming to these considerations, remember that there are different types of solar companies in California.

Currently, more than 2000 solar companies offer a wide range of solar services and products ranging from design of solar components to installation of systems in the solar energy value chain in California. These companies can be divided into manufacturers, contractors/installers, distributors and project developers. There are also legal support and financing firms. Here is a list of some popular solar energy companies in California:


  • FAFCO Solar Water Heating
  • Solartech power Inc
  • SunPower Corporation
  • SunEdison
  • Yingli Solar


  • Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group
  • Free Hot Water Solar Thermal Solutions
  • JLM Energy, Inc


  • Solar Electric Supply, Inc
  • SunChiller, Inc
  • SolarCity
  • SunEdison
  • West Coast Solar Energy


  • Premier Power Renewable Energy, Inc
  • Vista Solar
  • Horizon Solar Power
  • Akeena Solar
  • Herca Solar, Inc.

Some Common Solar Energy Systems
Systems available in California range from large scale CSP installations to solar thermal systems.

1. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
Concentrated solar power installations supply power to utility companies. Such installations comprise of thousands of large mirrors set in a way that they produce a large amount of thermal energy. This thermal energy drives a steam turbine to produce electricity.

One of the most prominent CSP installations in California is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which can provide power to 140,000 households.

2. Solar Photovoltaic
Solar PV is probably the most common type of solar energy installations in the state. Thanks to the rebates and incentives introduced by the government, these systems are more affordable than they were a few decades ago. In 2013 alone, California added 2740MW of energy from this technology.

3. Solar Hot Water
This technology came to California in the 1900s and has grown steadily ever since. Through the California Solar Initiative, residents can get rebates for installations of Domestic Hot Water.

4. Solar Pool Heating
Many pool owners in California use this straightforward technology to warm their pools. This form of heating is simply a circulation of pool water through solar pool panels before draining it back into the pool.

Demand and Role of the Government
Local, state and federal governments are playing their part in the growth of the market in California. The most notable involvement is through solar energy rebates and tax credits. Depending on which program you choose, the government can cover as much as 30% of the system cost.

The California Solar Initiative (CSI) administers rebates based on the size of your system. You can also qualify for rebates if you are undertaking an energy efficiency upgrade. Check with your nearest solar energy consultant to see if qualify. Other than CSI, there are more than 200 solar programs spread across California, all aimed at supporting the growth of the market.

As expected, some of these programs are bearing fruits. For example, demand for residential installations market has grown immensely thanks to a 50 percent drop in prices of installed systems since 2010. This demand is likely to increase, according to details from the California Energy Commission. A recent report from the commission reveals that more than 25% of new homes in southern California are already incorporating solar systems in their designs.

Future Projection of the Market
Solar energy market in California is at full throttle, but there are signs of both opportunities and pitfalls ahead. Residential and non-residential solar segments are likely to grow in 2015. However, the real transformation of the market is expected after January 1, 2017 when the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) finally drops to 10% and credit for residential PV purchases comes to a halt.

Despite the forecasts and complexes involved, the Golden State continues to enjoy bright sunshine.