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Solar Power Keeps Getting Cheaper

 

This Texas Solar Power Company installation may have been among the least expensive in the U.S. On average, Texans pay just $5/W for installation, according to a new report.

By Erin Weaver

The installed cost of solar power continues to decrease, largely due to the declining cost of the panels themselves. A new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory breaks down the numbers and makes suggestions for reducing other costs.

“Tracking the Sun V,” the lab’s fifth annual report, tracks the installed price of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) systems in the U.S. by location, customer type, and system size from 1998 to 2011, based on data from more than 150,000 residential, commercial, and utility-scale systems. Prior to 2005, the decline in price was largely due to reductions in non-module, or “soft,” costs such as permitting, installation, and maintenance; prices stabilized for a few years and then, in 2008, module costs (for the panels themselves) began to fall sharply, with reductions of 25% in residential and commercial installations by 2011. Soft costs, however, have remained fairly consistent since 2005.

Overall price varied from state to state; small systems were installed for less than $5/W in Texas but well over $7/W in Washington, D.C., and much of that difference was in soft costs. The U.S. PV market, the world’s fourth largest, is encouraged by government incentives that include rebates and tax benefits; the report suggests targeting future policies at specific expenses, such as permitting and interconnection.

January 1, 2013

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