Solar Applications: Growing Form of Energy Data Analysis

Posted on Feb 1, 2020
The skills I demoed here can be learned through taking Data Science with Machine Learning bootcamp with NYC Data Science Academy.

Links: Github | Shiny App | Dataset 


Solar is a growing form of energy and is considered the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available1 in the world. I decided to analyze a solar applications dataset from the state of California. The purpose is to understand which companies stand to benefit from the secular rise of solar power production in the US.

Why this dataset?

California easily leads all 50 states in solar electricity production (enough to power 5.4 million homes), nearly 5x larger than the second largest state2. Therefore, “the Golden State” provides a great opportunity to gain insights into a growing US solar market. Additionally, I chose applications data in particular because an application needs to be submitted and approved before an actual installation occurs. Therefore, analysis of this data could potentially be a forward-looking metric.

Then I focused on analyzing how much solar photovoltaic (PV) modules (e.g. solar power) are associated with each application. I grouped this by Utility, Third-Party Installer, and Segment (e.g. Residential, Commercial, Industrial, etc).

Which companies?

There are several companies that can be tied to the solar applications on a megawatt (MWs) basis. Understanding the rate of change of solar applications in MWs could provide some insight to their operations in CA. Below are the companies:

California Investor Owned Utility Third-Party Installer
PGE: Pacific Gas and Electric SCTY: SolarCity (owned by Tesla)
SCE: Southern California Edison RUN: SunRun
SDGE: San Diego Gas & Electric SPWR: SunPower
  VSLR: Vivint Solar

Data Takeaways

  • According to the latest data update (as of October 2019), solar application growth for VSLR and SCE continued to accelerate in 3Q19 vs. prior quarters. Growth increased by 97% and 26% Y/Y, respectively, and these were the key winners from the Third-Party Installers and Utility groups of the data.
  • Meanwhile, SCTY continued to show meaningful Y/Y declines in the past two quarters (2Q19 to 3Q19), largely in-line with expectations as SolarCity continues to represent a smaller portion of Tesla's overall revenue (approximately 10% as of 3Q19). However, early reads into 4Q19 from October data showed SCTY application growth could accelerate vs. prior quarters.
  • Lastly, overall solar application growth in MWs continues to be driven by Residential customers in Southern California counties. This customer segment and region has driven the majority of application volume in recent years.

R Shiny Application

Below are some examples of how I visualized the data in Shiny, or click here to load the application.

Daily Applications in MWs by California Investor Owned Utility:

Relative Comparison Charts by Installer:

Quarterly Rate of Change by PGE:

Quarterly Rate of Change by SCTY:

2019 Total Applications in MWs by County:


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