Solar Photovoltaic System Installation Costs on the Decline

09/27/2011 |


The installed cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the United States fell substantially in 2010 and into the first half of 2011, according to the latest edition of an annual PV cost tracking report released by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

The study—the fourth in Berkeley Lab’s “Tracking the Sun" report series—describes trends in the installed cost of PV in the United States, and examined more than 115,000 residential, commercial and utility-sector PV systems installed between 1998 and 2010 across 42 states, representing roughly 78 percent of all grid-connected PV capacity installed in the United States.

Dramatic reductions in the price of PV modules have had significant effects.  The average installed cost of residential and commercial PV systems completed in 2010 fell by roughly 17 percent from the year before, and by an additional 11 percent within the first six months of 2011.

Non-module associated costs have fallen as well.  Installation labor, marketing, overhead, inverters, and the balance of system also fell for residential and commercial systems in 2010.

The drop in non-module costs is especially important,” says report co-author and Berkeley Lab scientist Ryan Wiser, “as those are the costs that can be most readily influenced by solar policies aimed at accelerating deployment and removing market barriers, as opposed to research and development programs that are also aimed at reducing module costs.”

Turning to utility-sector PV, costs varied over a wide range for systems installed in 2010, with the cost of systems greater than 5,000 kilowatts (kW) ranging from $2.90 per Watt (W) to $6.20/W, reflecting differences in project size and system configuration, as well as the unique characteristics of certain individual projects. Consistent with continued cost reductions, current benchmarks for the installed cost of prototypical, large utility-scale PV projects generally range from $3.80/W to $4.40/W.

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