How to Minimize PV Costs

02/17/2016 |

Key drivers for affordable solar

Solar panel

Despite a general downward trend in the cost of solar photovoltaic systems and components, the installed costs for PV still vary widely. A recent study by the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examines the reasons for pricing differences and the characteristics of new PV installations at the low end of the price range.

“We find that low-priced PV systems – those cheaper than 90% of other systems nationally – are more prevalent in local markets with fewer active providers and are more likely to be installed by companies that have more county-level experience with PV systems,” explains Greg Nemet of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the lead author of the report. “Not surprisingly, low-priced PV systems are also associated with a variety of system characteristics. For example, such systems are more likely to be customer owned vs. leased, are larger in size and use lower-efficiency modules. They’re also less likely to use tracking, building-integrated PV modules, micro-inverters or batteries.”

After accounting for differences between markets, the analysis also demonstrates significant price variations between states. Compared to California, which was used as a reference state, PV systems were 51 times more likely to be less expensive in Maine, 23 times more likely in Arizona and 10 times more likely in New Hampshire. Policy initiatives can also help affordable systems proliferate, the researchers noted.

The study was based on analysis of over 40,000 PV systems from 1-15 kW. The full text of Characteristics of Low-Priced Solar Photovoltaic Systems in the United States is available from Berkeley Lab at

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