Study finds substantial variation in installed PV costs across California

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Online PV sales site Solar To The People has released an analysis of the cost of installed solar in California in 2015, finding substantial differences in the cost of installing solar across the Golden State, which remains by far the largest market for solar in the United States.

The analysis, which is based on data from the state of California’s Go Solar website, finds that installing solar is on the average $0.51 per watt less expensive in parts of rural Northern California near the Oregon border as opposed to the Central Coast.

According to this study, the average cost of installed solar after incentives reached $3.09 per watt after incentives including the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in the region around Redding, and the Shasta/Cascades region in 2015, as opposed to $3.60 per watt on the central coast.

These prices apply only to pv systems purchased via a loan or cash, and not leased systems.

However, given that the average system size was more than 2kW larger in these northern regions, the average system cost in Redding and Shasta/Cascades was higher at over $20,000 after incentives, versus only $16,000 for the Central Coast.

In addition to Redding/Shasta/Cascades, some of the other regions where installed solar is the cheapest on per-watt basis are the North Coast, Sacramento and the Central Valley. The website also found that additional incentives are available for homeowners installing solar in Sacramento and Los Angeles, which are served by municipal utilities.

While net metering has been fairly standard in California, at least to date, the dozens of municipal utilities and cooperatives in California often have individual incentive programs for PV. Added to the differences in local permitting, the landscape for installing solar in the state can be maddeningly complex.

The average residential solar cost in California was $3.39 per watt in 2015 and the average system size was 5.5 kW, meaning that the average cost to homeowners to install PV was around $18,700 after incentives.