Nav: Home

NREL report shows US solar photovoltaic costs continuing to fall in 2016

October 11, 2016

The modeled costs to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems continued to decline in the first quarter of 2016 in the U.S. residential, commercial, and utility-scale sectors, according to updated benchmarks from the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Driving the cost reductions were lower module and inverter prices, increased competition, lower installer and developer overheads, improved labor productivity, and optimized system configurations.

"The continuing total cost decline of solar PV systems demonstrates the sustained economic competitiveness of solar PV for the industry across all three sectors," said NREL Senior Analyst and Project Lead Ran Fu.

The modeled costs for the first quarter of 2016 were down from the fourth quarter of 2015 by 6 percent, 4 percent, and 20 percent in the residential, commercial, and utility-scale sectors, respectively. The costs fell to $2.93 per watt of direct current for residential systems, $2.13 per watt of direct current for commercial systems, and $1.42 per watt of direct current (Wdc) for utility-scale systems for fixed-tilt utility-scale systems, and $1.49 Wdc for one-axis-tracking utility-scale systems.

"Such accurate cost benchmarks are critical for tracking the progress of PV systems toward cost-reduction goals. Because our cost model categorizes hardware and non-hardware costs with a high degree of resolution, the results can also be used to identify specific cost-reduction investment opportunities and assess regional levelized costs of energy," Fu said.

The new results also highlight the importance of non-hardware, or "soft," costs. As the pace of cost reductions for modules and inverters has slowed in recent years, the proportion from soft costs-such as labor, overhead, and permitting costs-has grown. In the first quarter of 2016, soft costs accounted for 58 percent of residential system costs, 49 percent of commercial system costs, and 34 percent of utility-scale system costs.

NREL uses a "bottom-up" modeling method to construct total capital costs by quantifying the typical cost of each individual system and project-development component, largely through dialogues and interviews with solar industry collaborators. The results represent total installed system costs from the perspective of the PV project developer or installer, including net profit in the cost of the hardware. The benchmarks are national averages weighted by state installed PV capacities.

NREL has produced the annual benchmarks since 2009. The full technical report (U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark Q1 2016) as well as a presentation about the new results and a data file are available online:
-end-
Full technical report: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/66532.pdf

Presentation: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/67142.pdf

Data file: https://doi.org/10.7799/1325002

This ongoing work is supported by the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) through its SunShot Initiative. SunShot is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. This research is part of NREL's broader clean energy manufacturing analysis activities, which yield insights that can support Energy Department and industry decisions about research and development targets, investment strategies, and policy evaluation.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

Visit NREL online at http://www.nrel.gov

DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Related Energy Articles:

Mandatory building energy audits alone do not overcome barriers to energy efficiency
A pioneering law may be insufficient to incentivize significant energy use reductions in residential and office buildings, a new study finds.
Scientists: Estonia has the most energy efficient new nearly zero energy buildings
A recent study carried out by an international group of building scientists showed that Estonia is among the countries with the most energy efficient buildings in Europe.
Mapping the energy transport mechanism of chalcogenide perovskite for solar energy use
Researchers from Lehigh University have, for the first time, revealed first-hand knowledge about the fundamental energy carrier properties of chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3, important for potential solar energy use.
Harvesting energy from walking human body Lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester develop
A research team led by Professor Wei-Hsin Liao from the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has developed a lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester for scavenging energy from human motion, generating inexhaustible and sustainable power supply just from walking.
How much energy do we really need?
Two fundamental goals of humanity are to eradicate poverty and reduce climate change, and it is critical that the world knows whether achieving these goals will involve trade-offs.
New discipline proposed: Macro-energy systems -- the science of the energy transition
In a perspective published in Joule on Aug. 14, a group of researchers led by Stanford University propose a new academic discipline, 'macro-energy systems,' as the science of the energy transition.
How much energy storage costs must fall to reach renewable energy's full potential
The cost of energy storage will be critical in determining how much renewable energy can contribute to the decarbonization of electricity.
Energy from seawater
A new battery made from affordable and durable materials generates energy from places where salt and fresh waters mingle.
Shifts to renewable energy can drive up energy poverty, PSU study finds
Efforts to shift away from fossil fuels and replace oil and coal with renewable energy sources can help reduce carbon emissions but do so at the expense of increased inequality, according to a new Portland State University study
Putting that free energy around you to good use with minuscule energy harvesters
Scientists at Tokyo Tech developed a micro-electromechanical energy harvester that allows for more flexibility in design, which is crucial for future IoT applications.
More Energy News and Energy Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.