U.S. installed solar PV costs continue to fall

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The U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories has released its seventh annual report on installed solar PV costs in the United States, based on fifteen years of data from over 300,000 PV systems.

Tracking the Sun VII finds that median installed prices in the United States fell 12-15% from 2012 to 2013 to US$4.70 per watt for systems under 10 kW, $4.30 per watt for the 10-100 kW, and $3.90 for the 100 kW – 5 MW range.

Prices for PV plants above 5 MW completed in 2013 remained steady at $3.00 per watt. There was little variation in pricing for larger projects, and projects using thin-film technologies were slightly less expensive at $2.70 per watt.

This is the fourth year of sharp declines for the residential and commercial sectors, and prices for systems under 5 MW fell another 5-12% in key markets during the first half of 2014. This is despite a flattening of module prices since 2012, which indicates a reduction in balance of system costs, but could also be impacted by delays in module cost reductions to the end-consumer.

Despite these impressive declines, the United States still has the highest prices among major PV markets where data is available for residential and commercial solar. U.S. installed PV prices are more than double German prices for systems under 100 kW, but also much higher than prices in the UK, Italy and France.

U.S. installed prices are even higher than Japanese installed PV system prices for the 10-100 kW range, even though Japan has by far the highest PV module prices of any major market.

The report found that installed PV system costs varied widely from state to state, depending on segment. Prices for third-party owned systems depended upon whether or not the installer was an integrated company that provided both installation and customer financing.

PV systems installed by non-integrated companies were generally close to the price of other customer-owned systems. Systems financed by integrated companies were still slightly higher, in line with historical trends.

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