Evaluating the Impact of Residential Solar Contract Cancellations in the United States

Jesse Cruce, Eric O'Shaughnessy, Jeffrey Cook

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The residential solar photovoltaic (PV) market in the United States is growing, despite frequent customer cancellations. Contract cancellations result in lost time and costs that must be borne by installers, often in the form of higher "soft costs" (i.e., non-equipment costs). These costs are often passed on to customers who successfully install PV systems. To date, few studies have attempted to estimate national cancellation rates or model the impacts on installed system costs. In this report, we utilize an installer-provided dataset of 199,665 residential PV-only projects representing about 10% of U.S. installs each year from 2017-2019. With this data, we evaluate cancellation rates and trends from contract signing to install. Next, by leveraging NREL's soft cost model for residential solar, we estimate installer spending through each phase of the pre-install process. Applying our findings on cancellation timelines and rates, we then estimate the potential cost impacts to successful installs from contract cancellations. Our work suggests that the rates and impacts of contract cancellations have been previously underestimated. Namely, we find that cancellations/unsuccessful project are; more common than previous estimates suggest; occur earlier in project timelines, though a significant number happen even after permit/ATB approvals; and contribute significantly to customer acquisition and other soft costs. We also find that cancellation do not appear to be driven by review delays in permitting and interconnection applications.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages43
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-80626


  • cancellations
  • residential solar
  • soft costs
  • solar PV


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