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The U.S. Solar Rise & Fall, What Can we Learn?

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The U.S. Solar Explosion to Implosion, Are We Next?

An abandoned warehouse filled with old, broken solar panels


  • The U.S. solar market shrank by over two thirds from 2000 to 2016.
  • Experts estimate over 1,000,000 homeowners now have orphaned systems.
  • Attractive tax benefits and rebates bring bad actors out of the woodwork.

Australia, home to some of the world’s best sunlight, has embraced solar energy with gusto. But across the Pacific, the American solar market went through a rollercoaster ride of explosive growth followed by a harsh decline, leaving thousands of homeowners in the lurch. What happened, and can we learn from their mistakes?

The USA Boom & Bust

From 2000 to 2016, the US solar industry witnessed a gold rush. Over 8,700 companies sprouted, promising clean energy and fat savings. Homes sported gleaming panels, and optimism soared. But behind the glitz lurked a dark secret: a majority of these companies were ill-equipped for the long haul. Poor customer service, shoddy installations, and even scams marked their path. Legal troubles followed, and by 2016, over 5,800 companies had vanished, leaving a staggering 1 million homes with “orphaned” solar systems. These homeowners, left with malfunctioning panels and no recourse, became stark reminders of the industry’s growing pains.

an old run down house with solar installed
In the USA, unscrupulous installers would do anything they could to get an install done

So, what went wrong? A key factor was the lure of easy money. Short-sighted operators saw solar as a quick cash grab, driven by lucrative government incentives. They focused on aggressive sales tactics and cut corners on quality and service. Their strategy? Squeeze out a quick profit before the inevitable collapse. This “fly-by-night” culture created a minefield for consumers, with dodgy deals and subpar products masquerading as sustainable solutions.

The aftermath was devastating. Solar orphans faced mounting repair bills, unreliable systems, and the bitter realization that their dream of clean energy had turned into a costly nightmare. The industry’s reputation plunged, casting a shadow over legitimate solar companies and hindering widespread adoption.

But from the ashes rose valuable lessons for the entire solar ecosystem, including Australia. Here’s how we can ensure a brighter future:

Look at this graph: shows rise and fall of solar panels in the states
Look at this graph: shows rise and fall of solar panels in the states

1. Choose Experience over Slick Promises:

Prioritize companies with a proven track record, preferably those established for at least 4 years. This gives them time to establish a solid reputation, refine their practices, and weather industry fluctuations. Avoid those lured by short-term incentives and lacking in experience. Lightning Energy, established in 2017, is a prime example of a company built on a foundation of experience and dedication to quality.

2. Trust Reviews and Recommendations:

on’t rely solely on glossy brochures. Dig deeper and check online reviews, industry accreditations, and independent consumer research. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations and seek out companies with a transparent track record of satisfied customers.

3. Quality over Price:

The cheapest deal might not be the best. Remember, solar systems are long-term investments. Opt for high-quality panels and equipment from reputable manufacturers, even if it means slightly higher upfront costs. Remember, quality installations and reliable products can save you money in the long run through efficient energy production and minimal repair expenses.

4. Understand the Warranty:

Don’t just skim the warranty; truly understand its terms and coverage. Ensure it includes both the panels and the installation, and that the company will be around to honor it when needed. Look for comprehensive warranties backed by reputable service providers.

5. Seek Expert Advice

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A reputable solar company will patiently answer your queries, address your concerns, and offer customized solutions that meet your specific needs and budget.

The Takeaway: Learn From the Past or Be Doomed to Repeat It:

The US solar market may have stumbled, but it has risen again, wiser and stronger. By learning from its mistakes, Australia can navigate its own solar journey with greater caution and clarity. Choose wisely, prioritize quality and experience, and remember: your roof deserves a partner, not a quick fling. Let’s make sure every Australian home basking in the sunshine does so under the shade of reliable, responsible solar, free from the shadow of solar orphans.

With knowledge and caution, Australia can harness the power of the sun while avoiding the pitfalls of the past. Let’s shine brighter, together.

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Written By:

Luke Cove
Managing Director
Lightning Solar & Electrical

luke cove - Founder of lightning solar

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