The average cost of going solar in the U.S. continued to decrease significantly in 2011 and through the first half of 2012, according to a report released by the Department of Energy. Solar advocates noted that these findings are the latest indicator that solar is an important and growing part of America’s new energy economy.
Adam Browning, Executive Director of the Vote Solar Initiative said, “this report shows just how far solar power has come in the U.S., and how much more we can do. Faced with a recession economy, messy election politics and an entrenched electricity marketplace, solar is quietly defying the odds and reinventing our national energy landscape. It’s really remarkable”.
President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Rhone Resch, added, “with solar energy more affordable than ever, more American families and businesses are going solar to meet their electricity and hot water needs”. Experts predict the solar market will double in 2013, based 2012 growth. The solar energy industry employs about 119,000 Americans with over 5,600 companies.
The latest edition of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s “Tracking the Sun,” an annual report on solar photovoltaic costs in the U.S., examined more than 150,000 PV systems installed between 1998 and 2011 and preliminary data from the first half of 2012. The report fount that the average installed price of residential and commercial PV systems completed in 2011 range from $6.1/W for smaller projects to $4.9/W for larger projects, an 11-14% decrease from the year before. Installed prices fell an additional 3-7% in the first half of 2012. Additionally, installed PV prices historically have declined an average of 5-7% per year from nearly $12/W in 1998, with particularly sharp reductions occurring since 2009. The recent price decline is, in large part, attributable to falling module prices, which fell by $2.1/W from 2008 through 2011, and have fallen further still in 2012. Finally, non-module costs, such as installation labor, marketing, overhead, inverters, and the balance of systems for residential and commercial systems declined by roughly 30% from 1998 to 2011, but have not declined as rapidly as module prices in recent years. Market-building policies that target non-module or “soft” costs represent a significant opportunity for continued price reduction.
The price declines found in Tracking the Sun add to a number of recent reports, including rapid market growth, employment growth, and overwhelming bipartisan support. PV installations totaled 742 megawatts (MW) in Q2 2012, up 45% over the previous quarter and 116% over Q2 2011. Solar employs 119,000 Americans across all 50 states. Solar job growth has far outpaced the general economy with 13.2% annual growth over 2011. Source: The National Solar Jobs Census from the Solar Foundation. 92% of Americans agree that it's important to use and develop more solar. Source: Hart Research National Solar Survey 2012.