Will Sunrun and SolarCity Help Nevada Become Top Solar State?

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Nevada, despite abundant sunshine, fell off the list of Top 10 Solar States last year. But the state still ranks high on cumulative capacity installed; the drop related to how much solar was installed in 2013. If an infusion this year of more residential solar options is anything to go by, Nevada could be set to reappear on the list.

Simultaneous solar expansions

Major residential solar players Sunrun and SolarCity have both set their sights on the state, with both announcing expansions there today.

SolarCity (Nasdaq:SCTY), which enjoys the biggest share of the U.S. residential solar market, recently announced plans to launch its solar service in Nevada. Today, the company said it’s expanding its Nevada presence by opening a new 18,000-square-foot Henderson Operations Center. Starting this week, the center will serve as its regional hub to install solar for Nevada residents and businesses. Henderson is SolarCity’s first operations center in Nevada, joining two Las Vegas locations that house key administrative divisions for the company.

Sunrun, the largest dedicated residential solar company in the U.S., is also making inroads in Nevada. Today, the company announced that its home solar service is now available in the state.

Solar-as-a-service

Both companies are providing their solar-as-a-service offerings. Sunrun was the first company to bring American homeowners solar-as-a-service, which allows customers to get a solar system installed on their home with no money down and begin saving on their electricity bills immediately. Sunrun designs, installs, finances, insures, monitors, and maintains the system, while homeowners just pay for the clean power it generates at a lower rate than their current utility.

“We are excited to offer Nevada families a new choice in how they purchase electricity, especially electricity from a near limitless clean energy source, the sun,” said Lynn Jurich, Sunrun’s chief executive officer. “Nevadans should have the opportunity to take advantage of homegrown power. Our vision is to create a planet powered by the sun and allowing residents of Nevada to start enjoying the benefits of Sunrun solar helps us all achieve that goal.”

SolarCity also offers deals that allow homeowners to install solar panels with no money down and pay less for the solar power they generate than they pay for electricity from the local utility. SolarCity says it can help Nevada homeowners go solar for as little as $30 per month, with design, installation, financing, insurance, monitoring, and a performance guarantee included. The company has already signed up more than 1500 new customers and expects to begin installations this month.

Jobs

Naturally, both companies are bringing good solar jobs to the state.

The SolarCity expansion diversifies the categories of solar jobs for the area, with positions now available for installers, site surveyors, electricians, and engineers joining the sales and customer account management positions the company had recently based in Nevada. SolarCity already employs 60 people at the new facility. It now also has 70 open positions in Henderson and more than 100 open positions across the state in installation, electrical work, sales, and customer account management. This latest expansion pushes SolarCity’s total Nevada staffing to over 640 people.

Over the next several years, Sunrun also expects to create hundreds of clean economy jobs in the state, beginning with the opening of a warehouse and office in Las Vegas this year.

Legislative support

In another confirmation of how important policy is to solar, both companies largely credited their forays into Nevada not to the state’s sunshine but to the efforts of the state legislature and Governor Brian Sandoval to build the clean energy economy there. Assembly Bill 428 reformed NV Energy’s SolarGenerations incentives program and provides the framework for the stable growth of jobs and energy choice for residents, promoting a dependable residential rooftop solar program.

The program begins accepting applications today, which may explain the simultaneous announcements.

“Sunrun’s entry in the market is proof that the Nevada Legislature’s steady work last session on renewable energy policy is making a difference,” said Assemblyman David Bobzien, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor. “We welcome the company to Nevada as one more option for our constituents when it comes to their energy choices.”

“SolarCity is bringing good jobs, building a new local industry and creating a brighter future for the entire region with their new Henderson Operations Center,” said Congressman Joe Heck.

Senator Joyce Woodhouse echoed the sentiment: “Nevada is famous for our sunshine. Thanks to leaders like SolarCity, we will also be famous for our strong solar industry and clean energy economy.”

And Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen pointed to an important benefit of solar for an arid state like Nevada: “I applaud the work SolarCity is doing to bring good jobs to our area. I also want to recognize how solar can help us conserve water during this terrible drought by using no water to produce clean energy. Here in Nevada, investing in clean, water efficient energy is critically important to our future.”