Sunrun reports 40% surge in solar installs in Q3 as storage, grid services accelerate

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Sunrun expects 10% surge in activity in Q4 driven by the Vivint Solar acquisition. Image: Sunrun.

US residential solar leader Sunrun has posted a 40% surge in installs in Q3 2020, noting that the productivity of its sales force has surged throughout the pandemic.

Reporting its results for the three months ended 30 September 2020, Sunrun said it had installed 109MW of residential solar, equivalent to around 14,700 new customers, in the third quarter. This was up 40% on the 78MW it installed in Q2 2020 and up marginally on the 107MW it installed in the corresponding period last year.

But perhaps most notably, that volume figure was around double the total it was guiding for, having said in August that the company was to expect a 20% rebound in installs during Q3.

Solar system and product sales for the quarter did, however, record a slide year-on-year, falling some 20% to US$95.3 million. Total revenue stood at US$209.8 million, down 3% on last year’s figure.

US residential comparisons

At 109MW in Q3, Sunrun continues to hold a healthy lead over its rivals in the space. While SunPower last week reported installing around 108MW of residential and light commercial solar in Q3 2020, just 66MW of that figure is strictly residential.

Tesla, meanwhile, did record something of a comeback in the third quarter, installing around 57MW of residential solar as it lauded its strategy of providing the lowest-cost solar in the US.

And with the acquisition of Vivint Solar, which Sunrun completed last month, the company looks set to take a dominant share of the market. Sunrun has now guided that it expects its Q4 install volume to jump 10% just on the addition of Vivint Solar’s sales volume, irrespective of any additional surge it may experience. This is also expected to contribute towards a benefit to net customer margins as well.

The company noted that Vivint Solar installed around 47MW of residential solar in Q3, up slightly on the 44MW it installed in Q2, but a fairly significant contrast to the 65MW it installed in Q3 2019. This, Tom VonReichbauer, CFO at Sunrun, explained was down to geographies Vivint is historically strong in, mainly Massachusetts and Illinois, having suffered more significant restrictions during the pandemic.

Speaking to investors and analysts yesterday, Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich paid testament to the company’s sales force, which has reported a significant jump in productivity as the company’s sales efforts have been tailored to the pandemic situation. Salesforce productivity is now up by around 40% on last year’s figures, with the majority of the company’s sales efforts conducted virtually.

Storage and VPPs gather steam

Sunrun also noted further milestones in its addition of energy storage to its portfolio, also confirming yesterday that its Brightbox residential storage solution was now available in all of its key markets. Jurich told investors she expected sales of Brightbox to double over the course of the next year.

The company also continues to expand its exposure to virtual power plants and contracts to provide grid flexibility services, which Jurich described as a “flywheel opportunity” during Sunrun’s Q2 results disclosure.

To date, the company has won 11 VPP awards which Jurich said cover around 10% of the company's total geographical footprint, but Sunrun has a sizeable pipeline of contracts, wherein Brightbox customers will dispatch power when required, which could account for around half of its geographical area once complete.

“These opportunities not only provide us with additional recurring revenue streams, they provide a differentiated customer offering,” Jurich said.

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