Tracking the Sun III; The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998-2009

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Installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have been growing at a rapid pace in recent years. In 2009, approximately 7,500 megawatts (MW) of PV were installed globally, up from approximately 6,000 MW in 2008, consisting primarily of grid-connected applications. With 335 MW of grid-connected PV capacity added in 2009, the United States was the world's fourth largest PV market in 2009, behind Germany, Italy, and Japan. The market for PV in the United States is driven by national, state, and local government incentives, including up-front cash rebates, production-based incentives, requirements that electricity suppliers purchase a certain amount of solar energy, ... continued below

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Barbose, Galen; Darghouth, Naim & Wiser, Ryan December 13, 2010.

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Installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have been growing at a rapid pace in recent years. In 2009, approximately 7,500 megawatts (MW) of PV were installed globally, up from approximately 6,000 MW in 2008, consisting primarily of grid-connected applications. With 335 MW of grid-connected PV capacity added in 2009, the United States was the world's fourth largest PV market in 2009, behind Germany, Italy, and Japan. The market for PV in the United States is driven by national, state, and local government incentives, including up-front cash rebates, production-based incentives, requirements that electricity suppliers purchase a certain amount of solar energy, and federal and state tax benefits. These programs are, in part, motivated by the popular appeal of solar energy, and by the positive attributes of PV - modest environmental impacts, avoidance of fuel price risks, coincidence with peak electrical demand, and the possible deployment of PV at the point of use. Given the relatively high cost of PV, however, a key goal of these policies is to encourage cost reductions over time. Therefore, as policy incentives have become more significant and as PV deployment has accelerated, so too has the desire to track the installed cost of PV systems over time, by system characteristics, by system location, and by component. Despite the significant year-on-year growth, however, the share of global and U.S. electricity supply met with PV remains small, and annual PV additions are currently modest in the context of the overall electric system. To address this need, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory initiated a report series focused on describing trends in the installed cost of grid-connected PV systems in the United States. The present report, the third in the series, describes installed cost trends from 1998 through 2009, and provides preliminary cost data for systems installed in 2010. The analysis is based on project-level cost data from approximately 78,000 residential and non-residential PV systems in the U.S., all of which are installed at end-use customer facilities (herein referred to as 'customer-sited' systems). The combined capacity of systems in the data sample totals 874 MW, equal to 70% of all grid-connected PV capacity installed in the United States through 2009 and representing one of the most comprehensive sources of installed PV cost data for the U.S. The report also briefly compares recent PV installed costs in the United States to those in Germany and Japan. Finally, it should be noted that the analysis presented here focuses on descriptive trends in the underlying data, serving primarily to summarize the data in tabular and graphical form; later analysis may explore some of these trends with more-sophisticated statistical techniques. The report begins with a summary of the data collection methodology and resultant dataset (Section 2). The primary findings of the analysis are presented in Section 3, which describes trends in installed costs prior to receipt of any financial incentives: over time and by system size, component, state, system ownership type (customer-owned vs. third party-owned), host customer segment (residential vs. commercial vs. public-sector vs. non-profit), application (new construction vs. retrofit), and technology type (building-integrated vs. rack-mounted, crystalline silicon vs. thin-film, and tracking vs. fixed-axis). Section 4 presents additional findings related to trends in PV incentive levels over time and among states (focusing specifically on state and utility incentive programs as well as state and federal tax credits), and trends in the net installed cost paid by system owners after receipt of such incentives. Brief conclusions are offered in the final section, and several appendices provide additional details on the analysis methodology and additional tabular summaries of the data.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-4121E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/1003825 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1003825
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc847052

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  • December 13, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • July 5, 2016, 1:47 p.m.

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Barbose, Galen; Darghouth, Naim & Wiser, Ryan. Tracking the Sun III; The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998-2009, report, December 13, 2010; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc847052/: accessed June 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.