view from the states
Installed PV Costs
Compiled by Mike Koshmrl, associate editor
Spot pricing on crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) modules has plummeted by an astonishing 40 per- cent since the beginning of the year. Balance of system costs, including mounting hardware, labor, permitting
and fees, installer profit, and so on, is declining at a rapid
rate. Pricing has been more stable in inverters.
In a competitive market, lower prices quickly flow downstream. In its latest report, “Tracking the Sun IV,” Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory found that the installed price
of behind-the-meter PV averaged $6.20 per watt last year,
down 17 percent from $7.50 in 2009. Systems larger than
500 kilowatts (k W) dropped $2 per watt for a 26 percent
decline. Residential-scale and small commercial systems
(1 k W to 10 k W) fell between 90 cents and $1.10 per watt,
and now average $6.80 per watt.
Installed costs vary widely state to state, based on local
regulatory and market realities.
After incentives, residential PV in California and New Jersey, where the high price of grid electricity drives demand,
averaged $4 per watt. Of the 20 states that submitted post-incentive cost data, only Minnesota and Wisconsin reported
higher post-incentive costs. At the other end of the spectrum was Oregon, where residential PV cost just $2.20 per
watt. Arkansas, with less than 1 megawatt (MW) installed,
averaged less than $3 per watt.
Falling installed costs help to drive the 2 gigawatts (G W)
of new installations forecast this year. Sans incentives, a
small residential system could be installed in Germany last
year for $4.20 per watt (the country now boasts 17 GW of
installed solar capacity). As the U.S. market grows, our prices
should approach that level.
*Data from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s “Tracking the Sun IV: An Historical Summary of the Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to
2010.” View the PDF online at tinyurl.com/ Tracking TheSun.
cpw= cost per watt
Yellow states: $2.00 – $2.90 post-incentive PV
Orange states: $3.00 – $3.90 post-incentive PV
Brown states: $4.00 – $4.90 post-incentive PV
Tan states: Data not available
The LBNL dataset tracked installed cost data for 42 states and
approximately 116,500 PV systems, totaling 1,685 M W and
representing 79 percent of all grid-connected PV capacity
installed in the United States through 2010. Net-installed-cost, or post-incentive, data was captured for 20 states.
$6.80 gross cost per watt (cpw)
$3.60 post-incentive cost per watt
$18,000 cost for 5-k W residential PV system
$8.00 gross cpw
$4.20 post-incentive cpw
$21,000 cost for 5-k W residential PV system
$6.50 gross cpw
$2.90 post-incentive cpw
$14,500 cost for 5-k W residential PV system
$8.40 gross cpw
$3.80 post-incentive cpw
$19,000 cost for 5-k W residential PV system
$7.30 gross cpw
$4.00 post-incentive cpw
$20,000 cost for 5-k W residential PV system
$6.60 gross cpw
$2.60 post-incentive cpw