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Photovoltaic System Pricing Trends

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With significant variance in estimates of cost and price within the solar market, DOE's Sunshot Initiative with scientists from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkley National Labs, have released their report that seeks to address these differences. The authors of the report look at reported system pricing using LBNL's annual Tracking the Sun report as well as modeled system prices based on NREL's bottom-up PV cost modeling. Overall, reported system prices of residential and commercial PV systems declined by 6%-7% per year, on average, from 1998-2013, and by 12%-15% from 2012-2013, depending on system size.

The authors find that reported pricing for PV system installations completed in 2013 were significantly higher than modeled PV system prices expected to be installed during that time; Residential ($4.69/W report price, $3.71/W modeled price); commercial ($3.89/W reported price, $2.61/W modeled price); utility-scale ($3.00/W reported price, $1.92/W modeled price). The authors find that this variance is due to various factors, such as market fundamentals (e.g., large fraction of data for reported prices is from CA and other high-priced markets), inefficient pricing (i.e., value-based pricing), project characteristics (e.g., high-efficiency panels with single-axis tracking), and long temporal lags between contract signing and installation for large utility-scale projects. 

 

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