William Wallace Collins is president, William Wallace Collins, LLC. He’s also a member of Roofing Contractor’s editorial advisory board, and we often tap into his 30 years of experience in the construction industry. I asked him about his take on the solar industry after he attended some recent trade show shows, including PV America East. He was bullish on the topic; although he acknowledged he was in the minority, he believes residential solar in the United States will reach a tipping point by the end of 2014 — at least on the coasts.

“‘Clean tech is dead’ has become a common headline since 2011,” Collins said. “Many have extended that line to include residential solar. I don’t buy it.”

He continued, “Falling module prices, reduction of soft costs, expanding technical and financing standardization of Third Party Ownership PPAs and leasing agreements has many U.S. coastal markets already at ‘grid party.’ Combine this significant upfront cost reduction with an emerging home buyer preference for energy efficiency and lower operating costs with likely utility price increases to ‘harden’ existing distribution systems along with the slow expensive conversion to natural gas, and we could reach a tipping point by the end of 2014.”

According to Collins, this will present opportunities for roofing contractors. He said, “All these variables will create a groundswell for residential solar in the smart buyer set. Energy efficient, solar ready or solar installed new homes will visibly drive this trend the fastest. Roofing contractors should use the time now to form alliances, build capacity and hone selling skills to become home energy experts who can sell solar as the capstone to better re-sale value, home comfort, safety and lower costs. In advance of the expiration of 30 percent ITC, 2015 will be a banner year for residential solar installs whose volume drives installed prices below $2.50/watt and sets up full U.S. grid parity. At that point the flywheel tips towards distributed power and the utility companies will embrace the ‘new normal’ and lead in selling solar nationally in combination with leading residential energy efficiency and solar installers to hold onto their customer base.”