Berkeley Lab Report Show Distributed Costs of Solar Continue to Fall 5-7% Annually

Solar Power WorldNovember 5, 2019591

Summary:

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s annual Tracking the Sun report finds that costs of solar panels continued to fall in 2018, the industry practices will continue to evolve and that solar-powered systems are getting bigger and the efficiency of solar energy was found to be increasing.

Main Article:

Berkeley Lab Report Show Distributed Costs of Solar Continue to Fall 5-7% Annually

The latest edition of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s annual Tracking the Sun report finds that prices for distributed solar-powered systems continued to fall in 2018, that industry practices continue to evolve and that solar-powered systems are getting bigger and the efficiency of solar energy is increasing.

The report describes price and technology trends for distributed solar panel installation projects nationally, collecting project-level data from approximately 1.6 million solar-powered systems, representing roughly 80% of all solar-powered systems installed through the end of 2018. More than 2 million distributed solar panel installation projects are currently operating in the United States.

Key findings from this year’s report include:

- Installed prices continued to fall through 2018 and into 2019. National median-installed prices fell year-over-year by 5% to 7% across the market, continuing trends seen over the past five years. Before any solar power incentives, national median-installed costs of solar in 2018 reached $3.70 per watt for residential solar panels, $3.00 for small non-residential solar panels, and $2.40 for large non-residential solar-powered systems.

- Installed prices vary by state. Prices per watt varied widely for all sectors and regions, ranging from a low of $2.80 in Wisconsin to a high of $4.40 in Rhode Island for residential solar-powered systems. The range of prices for small non-residential solar-powered systems was similar, from $2.50 in Washington to $3.70 in Minnesota. State differences stem, in part, from underlying market conditions, such as market size and competition, as well as differences in permitting and interconnection processes, taxes, and incentives.

- Other drivers of prices. Other differences in price can stem from solar-powered system size, solar panel- and solar power inverter-type, mounting-type, location, solar panel installer, host customer-type and new construction vs. retrofits. This year’s report has a new analysis to isolate the effects of individual pricing drivers, including characteristics of the local photovoltaics market related to market size, competition and installer experience, among other factors.

- Market trends. Third-party ownership of systems has declined in recent years, dropping to 38% of residential, 14% of small non-residential, and 34% of large non-residential solar-powered systems in the 2018 sample. That trend reflects the emergence of residential loan products, among other factors. Tax-exempt customers, such as schools, government, and nonprofit organizations, made up a disproportionately large share (roughly 20%) of all non-residential systems.

- Distributed PV systems keep getting bigger, more efficient. Median solar-powered system sizes in 2018 grew to 6.4 kW for residential and roughly 50 kW for non-residential solar-powered systems, with 20% of the latter larger than 200 kW. The larger solar-powered system sizes partly reflect a steady growth in efficiency of solar energy, which rose a full percentage point to a median of 18.4% among systems installed last year. The report also covers solar-powered system design trends, including solar panel orientation, solar power inverter loading ratios, solar-plus-storage, use of module-level power electronics and third-party ownership.

Get creative and design your own rooftop solar system by going to HaHaSmart and using the design DIY tool and see how much the system will cost using the price checker tool.

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