SolarWakeup.com completed a tracking survey within the solar industry as of the beginning of May – and the results are encouraging!
As you might expect, overall sales in the U.S. are down versus February by 22.8%. But the sales levels vary by geography. In fact, over half of the responses indicated the same or increasing sales versus February. The survey reports that if New York and Massachusetts are removed from the sample then the sales slump is only 14.7%. Not bad in an industry that is labour intensive.
More than 73% of respondents indicated that lead volume has increased and 31% say that lead volume is actually higher than pre-COVID!
Newer Sales Methods
One of the interesting observations is that 89% of respondents report selling via phone or video calls. No one reported cutting sales headcount and in fact, 42% say they are hiring for sales positions. Having said that, the focus is on sales networks. In the U.S. that means ‘1099’ sales positions. 1099 positions are independent contractors who are responsible for their own taxes and other expenses. Read: eat what you kill.
Virtually all respondents (94.7%) are revising their 2020 forecasts downward, from an initial big growth forecast. The current consensus seems to be about even with 2019 – which was a good year. 89% expect sales to match pre-COVID levels by August and about half expect that mark to be met in July.
Residential installers also report a backlog of work that they can begin when authorities allow it.
This is a pivotal development in our view. Building departments across the U.S. (79%) are reported to have adopted digital permitting – and 68% have adopted virtual inspections or video submittals. This has the potential to vary significantly streamline the regulatory process. SolarAPP is now targeting Q3 pilots with funding being led by NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab).
There is somewhat less optimism outside of residential markets, no doubt led by financing concerns. Nevertheless, three-quarters of respondents still expect a return to normal sales by August.
The results of this survey are uplifting. I would dearly love to be able to report the size of the sample used to collate the results but believe that if there are responses from the majority of the lower 48 then we can reasonably assume a reasonably accurate profile of the current industry outlook.
Arguably one of the best news pictures here is that of digital permitting. Streamlining this process is an admirable goal and we certainly applaud the efforts of all concerned!