Nearly everyone involved in the solar industry expected 2019 to be a great year. It was, and then some.
Cutting the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) from 30 percent to 26 percent in 2020 got lots of fence-sitters to decide now was the time to go solar. As a result, nearly every segment of the solar industry –manufacturing, distribution sales, and installation – is reporting outstanding results – some are even using the term historic.
For Milestone, 2019 was a truly amazing year. By total jobs sold, watts of solar installed, gross sales, or just about any other measure, it was easily our best year. And other installers that we’re in touch with are making the same report.
Of the nearly 10 years we’ve been doing solar installations, 2019 was our biggest in several sub-categories:
Storage is a very hot-ticket item
We continue to do the standard DC-Coupled battery backup systems, but we’re also retrofitting more and more legacy systems with AC-Coupled configurations to add storage to older solar plants.
Both configurations work well, but both require professional design and implementation. When it comes to highly customized battery systems, those plug-and-play installers are in way over their depth.
This was also the first year that we installed several Lithium-Ion battery banks. No, not the Tesla product or LG system. While most of the plug-and-play guys like them, all Lithium-Ion battery chemistries are not the same. There are much better battery chemistries out there. The really good Lithium-Ion systems are spectacularly good – but pricey at initial purchase. For a 25 to 30-year battery system, some find it worth it.
We also did multiple completely off-the-grid systems this year, mostly in vacation or weekend properties. Off-grid works well for this. One exception was a 200-acre organic produce farm in Virginia featuring a 1700 AH battery bank, multiple inverters and charge controllers, and a robust solar array. That’s about as green as it gets.
More Ground Mount Systems Than Ever
A lot of our customers are in rural areas and have enough land to accommodate a ground mount array, so we’ve always installed a lot of them.
This year the percentage was the highest ever. I’m not sure if there’s any one reason for this, but it did work out that way.
Ground mounts actually offer several hard-to-dispute advantages over roof systems:
- The array can be precisely oriented to the sun path for the very best annual production and the pitch (angle) can be controlled. Roofs are never as perfect.
- A ground mount lets you easily clear snow from your array and gets you back into the business of turning sunlight into electricity after a snowstorm. This is particularly important for battery backup or off-grid systems.
Life After the 30 Percent ITC Expires
Many people were really stressing over what would happen if the 30 percent ITC weren’t extended. The most common assumption was that the sales would drop substantially in 2020.
I thought the same for a while. But lately industry folks have been telling me that 2020 might even be better than 2019, based on current delivery orders and pipeline data from throughout the industry.
Hard to believe, I know. But what I do know is that we already have more work booked for 2020 than we’ve ever had in any preceding December. I do believe that there are more factors in play than just the ITC (which will decrease another four percent, from 26 to 22 percent, come 2021). For many, the overall economy is pretty good, interest rates are low, and the overall cost per watt for solar systems continues to slowly go down.
If 2020 is anywhere near as good as 2019, I’ll certainly take it.
Our Most Sincere Thank You
When I started this company 10 years ago, I never dreamed that we would ever have a year like 2019. It would be a tremendous understatement to say that it’s very humbling, and tell you how grateful we are.
Buying a solar system is a big purchase decision for every family. People take money out of savings, or retirement accounts, or borrow considerable amounts, and trust us to deliver a professionally designed and installed solar system that will last for decades and perform as advertised. We do not take this responsibility lightly.
To everyone who trusted us to deliver a solar system this year and all previous years, our most sincere thanks.
And if you’re still looking at and evaluating solar systems and installers – I know a guy 😊
Happy Holidays from the Milestone Solar Consultants Crew!