By December 7, 2016 Read More →

About 30% of American distributed solar capacity is owned by third parties

solar capacity

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-826 Solar Capacity

California has the highest distributed solar capacity at 4.9 GW

Distributed solar capacity in the United States, which includes all solar power capacity other than utility-scale installations 1 MW or larger, totaled 12.3 gigawatts (GW) as of Sept., according to the US Energy Information Administration.

About 30 per cent of that amount (3.7 GW) was owned by third-party owners.

Third-party owners are private companies that provide either solar electricity or equipment to generate it to building owners or tenants, typically with little or no upfront costs.

There are three primary distributed solar ownership options: self-financing, utility/public financing, and third-party ownership (TPO).

EIA recently included TPOs on its monthly and annual surveys of utility operations to help capture ownership trends across states. TPOs commonly enter into either power purchase agreements or solar leases.

In EIA’s reporting, TPOs are defined as energy service providers, independent of how the payments are structured.

TPOs tend to be more common in the residential sector than in the commercial and industrial (C&I) sectors. TPOs own 44 per cent of distributed solar capacity in the residential sector, compared with 11 per cent in the C&I sectors.

The residential sector accounts for 56 per cent of distributed solar capacity but 84 per cent of third-party-owned solar capacity.

California has the highest distributed solar capacity at 4.9 GW.

Of that amount, about one third is owned by third parties. Arizona and Maryland have the highest shares of TPO capacity, and third parties own slightly more than half of their distributed solar capacity.

Utilities did not report any TPO capacity in 20 states, all which have relatively low distributed capacity (about 0.3 GW total). Some states have (or had) laws restricting TPOs.

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