The cost of rooftop solar fell further last year by up to 20 percent in 2014 in the U.S., according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s annual “Tracking the Sun” report. The report found that on average the costs for rooftop solar fell an additional 40 cents per watt in 2014.
“This marked the fifth consecutive year of significant price reductions for distributed PV systems in the U.S.,” said Galen Barbose, of Berkeley Lab’s Electricity Markets and Policy Group, and lead author of the report. The report also found that in the half of 2015, the installed price of solar in large state markets has continued to fall, 20 cents per kilowatt hour to 50 per kilowatt hour.
The report also found that the cost of solar power is dropping, not in terms of photovoltaic panels and hardware, but in terms of soft costs. Soft costs include marketing, system design, permitting and inspection costs, legal and other costs—basically the things related to the non-hardware part of a solar array.
Given that the soft costs of solar power are coming down and not the hardware costs and that each state handles solar permitting differently, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the report also found a lot of variability in the cost of rooftop solar. For instance, the report found that 20 percent of rooftop systems cost less than $3.50 per watt. On the other hand 20 percent of systems cost more than $5.30 per watt. The median cost of residential solar in 2014 was $4.30 per watt and in Arizona it was only $3.00 per watt.
“The fact that such variability exists underscores the need for caution and specificity when referring to the installed price of PV, as clearly there is no single ‘price’ that uniformly and without qualification characterizes the U.S. market, or even particular market segments, as a whole,” Barbose said of the findings.
“This variability reflects a host of factors: differences in system design and component selection, market and regulatory conditions, and installer characteristics, to name a few,” added Naïm Darghouth, another author of the report.
The costs of larger rooftop systems also fell in 2014 by an average of 70 cents per watt.
The report is based on data collected from more than 400,000 residential and non-residential solar arrays. The report collected data on PV systems installed between 1998 and 2014.Tweet