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Into the great beyond

posted Aug 2, 2016, 2:34 PM by Nate Shanklin

With traditional solar markets softening, developers are looking to new markets.

There was a time (roughly 5 years ago) when solar companies knew where to work.  The cost of equipment made projects utterly dependent on SREC markets and unusually high PPA rates.  While these conditions functionally hemmed solar into the mid-Atlantic, East coast and California geographies, there was a sense of organization and function to the market that seemed to work.  It was not as if the other states were off limits, but rather as if they ceased to even exist. 

Today, solar is an industry in its late infancy and changes have been brought forth through dire need, rather than bold exploration.  In this past year, large development in Maryland and an ever lengthening queue lines in New Jersey have all but taken the luster out of these markets.  Pennsylvania continues to lay lifeless and North Carolina’s lack of a state credit means it is still open for business, but there is little on the shelves and even fewer buyers. Not to be left behind, California continues to win as the most saturated solar market in the country. With traditional options dwindling, developers and financiers are looking north and
inward to find additional viable markets.

Due to the ever changing legal landscape and the flat lining of historically strong markets, the Northeast and Midwest are starting to look pretty good.  But, much as cowboys leaving the east heading for the Rockies for wealth and independence in the 1860’s would find, new territories lack certain amenities that make life easier.  Simply put, there is not an abundance of qualified and established developers, engineers and installers in many of these geographies.  Conversations with electrical contractors can quickly take on an alien tone.  Still, there is value out there, and savvy developers who are willing to dig are making it work.

Project size may not be astounding, but there are few markets left in the United States where electric rates and solar irradiance cross in such a favorable manner.  These markets, much like the original ones out east, will eventually find their legs, and turn into a stable and worthwhile market place, but that may be a couple of years off.  Until then, you will have to occasionally hear the question “you’re working where?”