Installed Price of Solar PV Systems in the US Continues Rapid Decline

by | Aug 15, 2013

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The installed price of solar PV power systems in the United States fell substantially in 2012 and through the first half of 2013 – the third year in a row of significant price reductions for PV systems in the US, according to the DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Installed prices decreased by a range of $0.30/W to $0.90/W, or 6 to 14 percent, from the prior year, depending on variables such as the size of the system. In the first half of 2013, PV system prices in California fell by an additional 10 to 15 percent, and the Berkley lab said that PV system price reductions in 2013 are on pace to match or exceed those seen in recent years.

The analysis comes from the latest edition of “Tracking the Sun VI, An Historical Summary of the Installed Price of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to 2012.”

The report specifically highlights soft costs – which include such things as marketing and customer acquisition, system design, installation labor, and the various costs associated with permitting and inspections – as the most promising target for further PV system price reductions.

According to the report, recent installed price reductions for PV systems are primarily attributable to steep reductions in the price of PV modules. From 2008 to 2012, annual average module prices on the global market fell by $2.60/W, representing about 80 percent of the total decline in PV system prices over that period.

Key findings from the study include:

  • The capacity -weighted average installed price in 2012 was $3.3/W for systems with crystalline modules and fixed tilt, compared to $3.6/W for crystalline systems with tracking and $3.2/W for thin-film, fixed-tilt systems.
  • The installed price of utility-scale systems varies considerably across projects, ranging from $2.3/W to $6.8/W.
  • Crystalline, fixed-tilt systems, capacity-weighted average prices fell by $2.8/W between the 2007-to-2009 period and 2012. In contrast, thin-film systems showed little installed price movement between the 2007-to-2009 period and 2012.
  • Installed prices for larger utility-scale systems are more uniform with most projects >10 MW installed in 2012 ranged in price from $2.5/W to $4.0/W.

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