National Lab Shows Another Year of Double Digit Solar Price Reduction

We work to make solar more affordable and more accessible to more Americans, and today we’re celebrating another marker on the path to success. According to a new study released today by the research gurus at Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the cost of going solar in the United States continued its rapid decline in 2013 and the first half of this year. We teamed up with our partners at SEIA to celebrate this progress.

National lab solar panel cost study chart

“In just a few years, American ingenuity and smart policy have made solar a true success story. These price declines mean that solar power is now an affordable option for families, schools, businesses and utilities alike,” said our executive director Adam Browning. “The result is that solar and its many grid, economic and environmental benefits are shining in communities across the country.”

“This report highlights yet another reason why solar energy has become such a remarkable American success story. Today, solar provides 143,000 good-paying jobs nationwide, pumps nearly $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy and is helping to significantly reduce pollution,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch.  “There are now more than half a million American homes, businesses and schools with installed solar, and this is good news for freedom of energy choice as well as for our environment.”

This is the seventh edition of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s “Tracking the Sun,” an annual report on solar photovoltaic (PV) costs in the U.S. This year’s report examined more than 300,000 PV systems installed between 1998 and 2013 and preliminary data from the first half of 2014. Key findings include:

  • Installed prices continued their significant decline in 2013, falling year-over-year by 12-15% depending on system size.
  • Partial data for the first six months of 2014 indicate that installed prices have continued to fall, with the median installed price of projects tracked in the nation’s largest solar market, California, declining by an additional 6-11% depending on system size.
  • Solar installed costs declined even as PV modules pricing remained relatively steady, indicating success in efforts targeting non-module soft costs – which include marketing and customer acquisition, system design, installation labor, and the various costs associated with permitting and inspections.
  • Cash incentives provided through state and utility PV incentive programs (i.e., rebates and performance based incentives) have fallen by 85% to 95% since their peak a decade ago.

Galen Barbose, one of the report’s authors at LBNL, notes that these findings mark the fourth consecutive year of significant cost reductions for the U.S. solar industry. And WE note that, it’s truly inspiring to see how far solar has come in the years since his team released the first Tracking the Sun report just seven years ago. Low costs have driven adoption, which in turn brought costs down further in a virtuous cycle of tremendous solar growth. Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States, employing 143,000 Americans, pumping $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy and helping to reduce pollution. Solar is helping drive a quiet energy revolution that puts customers in charge of their power supply and energy bills like never before. It’s awesome, and the real transformation is yet to come. Let’s do this!

This is just one of three excellent reports that the national lab released today:

  • Tracking the Sun – Our go-to resource on the installed costs of solar PV in the U.S.
  • How Much Do Local Regulations Matter? – which confirms that permitting and other local regulations have a real impact on the cost of residential solar across the U.S. We are proud that our own Project Permit resource helped provide data for this analysis.
  • Utility Scale Solar report – which found that larger utility-scale solar projects in the United States have made great strides in delivering competitively priced renewable electricity in recent years.

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