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Why Sales of Solar Panels Could Soon Start Booming

A SolarCity Corp. Residential Solar Panel Installation Ahead Of Earnings FiguresA SolarCity Corp. Residential Solar Panel Installation Ahead Of Earnings Figures
A worker secures a solar panel to a rooftop during a SolarCity residential installation.Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

The way people are getting solar panels installed in their homes is going through a rapid change.

The Wall Street Journal reported that companies such as SolarCity (SCTY) are taking a hit as customers are turning from leasing their solar panels to purchasing them in one lump sum.

SolarCity, along with similar solar companies, supplied 56% of home solar panels last year. This year, they may do just 50% in 2016, the newspaper reported, citing figures from GTM Research.

The Journal reported that solar panel leases, which were 72% of sales in 2014, are now expected to drop to only 48% by 2017 as more consumers buy them instead.

Leasing the panels is profitable for the companies which typically have customers locked into a 20-year contract with increasing rates. Meanwhile, the cost of buying solar panels outright could cost about half as much. To help pay for it all at once, more companies are offering loans to consumers (something that was difficult to do in the past, according to the newspaper).

 

“We got a lot of feedback from customers who wanted simpler terms and fixed payments,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive in an interview with the Journal.

In a separate statement to Fortune, the company said, “SolarCity provided more solar loans than any other solar installer in 2015, and we expect that to do so again in 2016, as our loan is even better today than it was last year.”

Customers, it seems, are becoming more savvy about their options when it comes to getting solar panels installed in their homes. “The customer is more informed, and is exposed not only to SolarCity because their neighbor has it, but five other solar companies that are all active in the marketplace,” said Michael Morosi, an analyst at Avondale Partners, in an interview with the Journal.