The average cost of going solar in the U.S. fell dramatically in 2010 and through the first half of 2011, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The latest edition of Tracking the Sun, an annual report on solar photovoltaic costs in the U.S., found that the average pre-incentive cost of residential and commercial solar PV systems decreased 17 percent in 2010, the most significant annual reductions since the lab started tracking the data in 1998. Costs declined another 11 percent in the first half of 2011, according to the report.
Furthermore, market-building policies are effectively driving costs down, the report says. Reductions in the costs of installation labor, balance of systems, overhead and other non-module costs fell 18 percent from 2009 to 2010. This is significant because, unlike module costs, which are largely determined by the global market, non-module costs are most readily impacted by state and federal policies that accelerate deployment and remove market barriers, the report says.
And government policy, specifically solar incentives, is now delivering an increasing return on investment, according to the report. As a result of lower per-watt costs, the average size of direct cash incentives from states and utilities as well as dollar-per-watt value of the federal tax incentive have both steadily decreased since their peak.
So far Tracking the Sun has examined more than 115,000 PV systems installed between 1998 and 2010 across 42 states.