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Tracking the Sun

Berkeley Lab announced the 10th annual Tracking the Sun.

Installed price trends over time

Notes: Solid lines represent median installed prices, while shaded areas show the 20th-to-80th percentile range. Summary statistics shown only if at least 20 observations are available for a given year and customer segment.

Tracking the Sun draws from a dataset maintained by Berkeley Lab, consisting of more than 1.1 million PV systems (a subset of which is ultimately analyzed within this report). Key findings from this year's report include the following:

  • Installed Prices Continued to Decline through 2016 and into 2017. National median installed prices in 2016 fell year-over-year by 2% to 8%, depending on customer segment. These were the smallest annual declines in recent years. However, data for the first half of 2017 suggest that installed prices for the current year are on pace to fall by at least 10% for each customer segment, similar to long-term average rates of decline.
  • Recent Installed Price Reductions Have Been Driven by Declining Hardware Costs. Over the long-term, both hardware and non-hardware (i.e., soft) costs have fallen substantially, contributing in almost equal measure to the decline in residential installed prices. More recently, however, hardware costs have been the dominant driver. In fact, the aggregate drop in module, inverter, and racking prices over the 2015 to 2016 period exceeded the observed decline in total system-level installed prices over the same span. That apparent disconnect reflects a natural lag between changes in component prices and system prices, and is consistent with the larger installed-price decline observed in the first half of 2017. 
  • Installed Prices Vary Widely Across Individual Projects.Among residential systems installed in 2016, 20% were priced below $3.2 per watt (W)-the 20th percentile value- while 20% were above the 80th percentile at $5.0/W. Non-residential systems exhibit similar spreads, albeit shifted downward. The potential causes for this variability are numerous, including differences in project characteristics, installers, and local market or regulatory conditions. These wide pricing distributions serve to demonstrate the potential for low-cost installations. For example, more than 15,000 residential systems installed in 2016 (9%) were priced below $2.5/W, and 8,000 (5%) were below $2.0/W.

The latest edition of Tracking the Sun, along with an accompanying summary slide deck and data file, can be downloaded at A public version of the underlying dataset used in the report can be downloaded through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Open PV website.

In addition, a webinar summarizing key findings from the report will be held on October 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm Eastern.  Register for the webinar here.

Finally, if you find this report-and the data it provides-to be useful, or if you regularly work with or are in search of solar data, please note that the U.S. Department of Energy has recently issued a Request for Information concerning solar energy analysis and data needs.  Responses are due by October 6, 2017:

Labels: Tracking the Sun,Berkeley Lab,residential solar,utility-scale solar,costs,installation,soft costs

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