Pat Kennell's motivation for installing sun power in his home is typical of the solar industry's new customer: He did it to save money.
The retired police officer from Stony Point, New York, said his cost of energy per kilowatt hour will go from 20 cents with the local utility company to 13 cents with his new solar technology. And it didn't cost him anything to install. The firm Kennell worked with, SolarCity, offered him a lease program, where customers with long-term contracts can have the equipment installed and maintained for free. Rivals of SolarCity offer similar programs.
"I needed to save money. I'm retired, my wife is 70, we needed to save some cash, and solar is good for the environment. I expect to save about 25 percent off my energy bill," Kennell said.
Kennell isn't alone. The residential solar market is on fire, with homeowners installing solar systems all across the country—sometimes trying to help the environment, other times just looking to save money. And while the trend has sent solar stocks on a tear, it could disrupt some traditional energy companies.
U.S. home solar penetration still stands at less than 1 percent, but estimates suggest it could grow to as much as 20 to 30 percent by 2020. In dollar terms, the market is expected to hit $6 billion in just a couple of years.