Although California dominates the US solar market, with 35% market share, there are still many residents of the Golden State thinking about going solar and seeking top solar installers for a new rooftop solar system. The following article features information on the state of solar installations in California, tips to keep in mind prior to calling a solar installer, and the top California solar installers for 2017.

The 2017 State of Solar Installations

With nearly 45 gigawatts (GW) of total solar capacity now installed in the US, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) notes that there are now nearly 1.4 million solar installations in the country. In the first quarter of 2017, SEIA reports, 2,044 megawatts (MW) were installed in the US. This is the 6th quarter in a row with over 2 GW installed and continues to fuel the average annual growth rate of 68% over the last 10 years.

Across all US solar market segments, prices have dropped 19% over the last 12 months, led by declining costs for hardware. Over the last 5 years, solar prices have dropped a whopping 63%. No matter where you live in the US, this is clearly a great time to consider going solar.

California Annual Solar Installations. Credit:
California Annual Solar Installations. Credit:

California, traditionally the dominant player on the national solar field, claimed a substantial 35% share of the US solar market in 2016. Beating the national average by 1%, solar prices in California have declined 64% over the last 5 years.

Taking first place in total megawatts installed, California solar installers added 5,2117 MW in 2016, bringing the current total to 18,920 MW installed. There are nearly 5 million homes (4,885,000) in the state that are powered by solar as of 2017, and solar power is now contributing 13.4% of California’s electricity generation.

Also taking first place in solar jobs, SEIA reports that California’s solar market is now employing 100,050 people in a total of 2,625 companies — 1,261 Installers/Developers, 455 Manufacturers, and 870 other related companies.

Topaz Solar Farm, one of the largest solar installations in the world, was completed recently in California. It is a 550 MW photovoltaic power station in San Luis Obispo County with enough capacity to power over 142,000 homes in the state. Prologis, the largest owner, operator, and developer of industrial real estate in the US has installed 8 MW of solar capacity at its Rialto I-210 Distribution Center. Another solar PV project, Dulles in Jurupa Valley, has installed 2 MW — enough capacity to power over 516 homes.

SEIA also notes that several large retailers in California have recently gone solar in a big way, including AER Worldwide, Agilent Technologies, and Airdrome Orchards.

A Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Adam Voiland.
An Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Adam Voiland.

Top Tips For Reviewing California Solar Installers

Over 3,000 hours of sunshine kisses California every year, making the Golden State a brilliant location for generating power from the sun. And, with so much solar power already energizing the state of California, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” it will become a net-zero state. If you are among the lucky residents considering going solar, consider this: The time is right, the price is right, and finding the right California solar installer is easier than ever.

While hardware prices have declined substantially over the last 5 years, labor and other “soft” costs still represent about 50% of a solar installation. In general, the larger solar companies spend larger sums on marketing and will charge more for installations to cover those costs. On the other hand, cost is not the only factor to consider when choosing a solar installer. Quality of products used, ongoing support and warranties offered, and the installer’s technical expertise will also substantially impact your future harvest of power from the sun.

At the heart of the solar industry, the solar panel installer holds the key to getting you the most effective use of the sun’s energy. Knowing more about the process of installing a rooftop solar system will help you evaluate installers before deciding on who to work with. The following tips will help guide your steps as you review the list of top California solar installers for 2017, covered further below.

1. Understand the Solar Installation Process:

When a solar installation plan reaches the launch pad, a team of installers arrives at your door, reviews your plan, and seeks access to work areas. This includes access to the roof, attic, electrical panel, garage, etc., as needed. Tools, equipment, solar panels, and related materials will be staged in areas that are convenient for the installers. Equipment and wiring will be installed, the team will clean up and leave, and then you will wait for the city or county inspector to approve the installation. After this, the utility company installs its net meter and gives the official Permission to Operate (PTO).

2. Understand Your Current & Future Electricity Usage:

Knowing your current and future electricity usage will help ensure that your solar installation plan covers your household needs. Review your utility bills for the last 12 months, and have them ready for solar installer interviews. Consider how your future electricity needs will grow as your family grows, if you put in a hot tub, or want a solar heater for your pool. And, if you plan to trade your car in for a new EV, you will also want to consider including an EV charger in your solar installation plan right now. Putting all this information on the table when you talk to a solar installer will help guide both of you to better decisions.

3. Understand the Difference Between Owning & Leasing Your Solar System:

Understanding the difference between leasing, often via a power purchase agreement (PPA), and owning the solar system installed on your rooftop is very important. There are important reasons why one or the other option may be more appropriate for your individual situation. The technology, in either case, is the same. The main difference is the relationship with the homeowner.

Owning your own solar power system comes with the potential advantages of reaping immediate tax credits, paying for itself over time, providing electricity to your home for free, and earning a little cash from selling excess electricity to your local utility. However, owning comes with associated maintenance responsibilities and a steeper upfront price tag, typically around $10,000 or more at purchase. And, without the cash upfront, you’ll need to take out a loan that might ultimately double your price tag.

Leasing/PPA options appeal to cost-constrained homeowners because there are typically low or no upfront costs. The solar company owns and maintains the system installed on your rooftop, and you agree to pay a certain rate for the electricity generated for a certain number of years, typically 20 or 25 years. Both before and after the term expires, there are usually terms for buying the system outright, although the price may not be cost-effective and the process may not be straightforward.

4. Understand the Difference Between Local & Out-of-Town Installers:

Your solar installer must know your local regulations, building codes, and permitting processes, as well federal, state, and local tax credits and other incentives. Familiarity with your local utility’s net energy metering program (NEM) is also a must. Finally, once your system is installed, your warranty is crucial and your installer’s distance may impact ongoing support for your solar installation. Seek clear answers from potential solar installers regarding all of these important issues.

5. Understand the Timeframe Required for Your Solar Installation:

Although the actual installation doesn’t take long, the time required between choosing an installer and getting your system installed can vary substantially from one installer to another. Some of the larger solar companies can take up to 12 months before your solar panels arrive.  The time lapse may be due to installer backlog, unavoidable administrative paperwork, and/or complying with governmental regulations. Always ask potential solar installers for a clear estimation of the timeframe you can expect from them.

Top California Solar Installers for 2017

The following is a specially curated list of top California solar installers for 2017. Please note that this list is alphabetical — it is not in order by ranking because ranks are based on many factors that may or may not apply to your case. This list represents the best place to start if you are a Californian ready to go solar.

Alternative Energy Systems
13620 Highway 99, Chico, CA 95973

AMECO Solar Inc.
7623 Somerset Blvd, Paramount, CA 90723

Amergy Solar
20373 Valley Blvd, #E, Walnut, CA 91789

AM Sun Solar
410 Sherwood Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Arise Solar
5390 E. Pine Ave., Fresno, CA. 93727

Baker Electric Solar
2140 Enterprise Street, Escondido CA 92029

Bland Solar & Air
4303 E. Brundage Lane, Bakersfield, CA 93307

California Solar Electric
302 North Montgomery Street, Ojai, CA 93023

Clean Solar
1445 Koll Circle, Suite 109, San Jose, CA 95112

Cosmic Solar, Inc.
HQ: 943 Poinsettia Ave. Unit 401, Vista, CA 92081
12717 Mirar de Valle Rd., Valley Center, CA 92082

GCI Solar
15261 Connector Lane, Huntington Beach, CA 92649
2629 East Jensen Avenue, Fresno, CA 93706

Green Air
4050 Pike Lane, Suite B, Concord, CA

Green Conception
409 Irving Drive, Burbank CA 91504

Green Solar Technologies
6400 Laurel Canyon Blvd #400, North Hollywood, CA 91606

Highlight Solar, Inc.
1624 Remuda Lane, San Jose, CA 95112

Horizon Solar Power
27368 Via Industria Suite 101, Temecula, CA 92590

Kurios Energy
3025 E. Palm Avenue, Suite 101, Manteca CA 95337

LA Solar Group
HQ: 16238 Raymer St, Los Angeles, CA 91406

Lifestyle Solar
21 East Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA 93710
1111 Story Road, Suite #1004, San Jose, CA 95122
2336 Auburn Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95821
4454 Enterprise Street, Fremont, CA 94538

LuxLight Solar Energy
312 East Tokay St, Lodi, California, 95240

Magic Sun Solar
3750 Taylor Road, Loomis CA 95650

Milholland Electric
14777 Pomerado Rd. Poway, CA 92064

Northern Pacific Power Systems
5600 Skylane Boulevard, Santa Rosa, California 95403

Nova West Solar
7429 N. First Street, Suite #104, Fresno, California 93720

PacificSky Solar
6617 Independence Ave, Canoga Park, CA 91303

PetersenDean Roofing & Solar Energy
HQ: 39300 Civic Center Drive, Suite 300, Fremont CA 94538
7980 Enterprise Drive, Newark CA 94560
9545 S Union Avenue, Bakersfield CA 93307
8680 Greenback Ln, Suite 220, Orangevale CA 95662
1705 Enterprise Drive, Fairfield CA 94533
2164 N. Glassell Street, Orange CA 92865
879 F Street, Suite 120, West Sacramento CA 95605
7010 Carroll Road, San Diego CA 92121
4165 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa CA 95407
21616 Golden Triangle Road, Santa Clarita CA 91350
1820 Container Circle, Riverside CA 92509
10770 Highway 41, Madera CA 93638
2210 S. Dupont Drive, Anaheim CA 92806
2228 Junction Avenue, San Jose CA 95131

Palomar Solar
1526 Sterling Court, Escondido, CA 92029

RGS Energy (Real Goods Solar)
3109 N Miami Ave, Fresno, CA 93727

Renova Solar
75-181 Mediterranean Avenue, Palm Desert CA 92211

Save A Lot Solar
6114 La Salle Avenue, #760, Oakland, CA 94611

Semper Solaris
HQ: 3111 Camino Del Rio North, Suite 400, San Diego CA 92108
1805 John Towers Avenue, El Cajon CA 92020
7807 Telegraph Road, Montebello CA 90640
1218 Spring Street, Riverside CA 92507
360 N El Camino Real, Suite 2C, Encinitas CA 92024
1701 East Edinger, Suite H1, Santa Ana CA 92705
2570 Barrington Court, Hayward CA 94545
3600 Pegasus Drive #3, Bakersfield CA 93308
77725 Enfield Lane #210, Palm Desert CA 92211

Sierra Pacific Solar
2550 Mercantile Drive, Suite D, Rancho Cordova CA 95742

Smart Energy Solar, Inc.
1641 Commerce St., Corona, CA 92880

SolarCity — CA Headquarters Offices:
3055 Clearview Way, San Mateo, CA 94402
444 De Haro Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
1000 Enterprise Way, Roseville, CA 95678

Solare Energy
9520 Padgett St. #107, San Diego, CA 92126

SolarMax Technology, Inc.
HQ: 3080 12th Street, Riverside, CA 92507
1640 2nd Street Suite #103, Norco CA 92860
1329 Barton Road, Redlands CA 92373
28441 Rancho California Rd, Suite #204, Temecula CA 92590
3230 Fallow Field Drive, Diamond Bar CA 91765

4700 El Camino Real, Atascadero CA 93422

Solar Symphony
341 North Engel Street, Escondido CA 92029

Solar Tech
9410 Bond Avenue, El Cajon, CA 92021

Solar Universe — CA Offices:
9000 Brentwood Blvd, Brentwood, CA 94513
4659 Golden Foothill Parkway Suite #105, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
5096 N. Blythe Suite 100, Fresno, CA 93722
17972 Sky Park Circle, Suite D, Irvine, CA 92614
855 Broadway Avenue Suite A, Seaside, CA 93955
10373 Trademark St Suite B, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
20275 Skypark Drive, Suite A, Redding, CA 96002
9380 Activity Rd., San Diego, CA 92126
10370 Slusher Dr. Unit 2, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
122 Calistoga Road, #574, Santa Rosa, CA 95409
101 First St, South San Francisco, CA 94080
1152 Stealth St., Livermore, CA 94551
8283 Bolsa Avenue, Midway City, CA 92655

Southwest Sun Solar
13752 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92843
1310 Tully Road #115, San Jose, CA 95122

Sullivan Solar Power
16 Technology Drive, Suite 122, Irvine, CA 92618
2111 Iowa Avenue, Suite F, Riverside, CA 92507
8949 Kenamar Drive, Suite 101, San Diego, CA 92121

Sun First Solar
136 Mitchell Blvd, San Rafael, CA 94903

Sunline Energy
HQ: 7546 Trade St., San Diego, CA 92121
17901 Von Karman Ave. Suite 600, Irvine, CA 92614
1902 Wright Place, Carlsbad, CA 92008
11801 Pierce Street Suite 200, Riverside, CA 92505
333 H Street Suite 5000, Chula Vista, CA 91910

SunPower by Hooked On Solar
820 Sterling Parkway, Suite 70, Lincoln, CA 95648

Sunpro Solar
34859 Frederick Street, Suite 101, Wildomar, CA 92595
1571 Parkway Loop, Tustin, CA 92780

Sun Solar Energy Solutions
HQ: 8803 Scobee St., Bakersfield, California 93311
3911 E. La Palma Ste. C, Anaheim, California 92807
9730 W. Nicholas Ave., Visalia, California 93291

The Solar Company
20861 Wilbeam Ave, Ste 1, Castro Valley, CA 94546

Vivint Solar — CA offices
8090 Arjons Dr., San Diego, CA 92126
2510 Dean Lesher Dr, Ste A, Concord, CA 94520
9847 Pioneer Blvd, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Bakersfield, Camarillo, Chico, Concord, Costa Mesa
Fresno, Palmdale, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego
San Jose, Santa Fe Springs, Stockton

West Coast Solar
2155 Elkins Way, Suite F, Brentwood, CA 94513