Home solar company SunRun has taken a look at what we can expect from the solar industry in 2012. According to SunRun, adoption among mainstream consumers will grow as solar prices continue to drop. At the same time, the industry will see significant consolidation and enduring leaders will emerge. Here is a list of SunRun’s predictions:

Solar gets even cheaper: The installed cost of solar dropped by more than 30 percent in the past year and price decreases will continue. Module prices could drop an additional 20% by the end of 2012, putting solar in reach for more American families.

A Darwinian year: Industry consolidation is inevitable in 2012 with incentives such as the 1603 Treasury Grant Program likely disappearing and oversupply pushing manufacturers to cut prices. While difficult, this consolidation will clarify the industry’s enduring leaders.

Solar leasing options trump cash: As Americans learn they can install solar on their roofs without buying the panels, they prefer it.  This option, known as solar power service or solar leasing, was nearly 60 percent of the home solar market in California by the end of 2011 and lets American families lock in low electricity rates. Expect it to approach about 75% of the California solar market in 2012, with other states following suit.

Solar for the middle class: Analyses from PV Solar Report show median-income zip codes are driving solar adoption in California and will continue to lead the charge in 2012.  The trend is spurred in large part by solar power service companies that help mainstream consumers put solar on their roofs without a big upfront cost.

Streamlining brings big bucks to communities: Low-cost improvements in solar processes like permitting can add billions of dollars to local economies.  According to economic consultancy AECOM, simpler solar permitting processes could generate over $5 billion in additional growth for California, an increase in nearly 20 percent relative to the status quo.  Streamlined permitting could drop the installed cost of solar by 25% in 2012 while generating thousands of jobs in local communities.

Tech breakthroughs beyond panels: Breakthroughs in non-panel technologies will make solar deployment and design easier and cheaper.  Coupled with declining solar panel costs, these supporting technologies will make solar even more affordable and scalable.


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