Tracking the Sun II: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2008

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Installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have been growing at a rapid pace in recent years. In 2008, 5,948 MW of PV was installed globally, up from 2,826 MW in 2007, and was dominated by grid-connected applications. The United States was the world's third largest PV market in terms of annual capacity additions in 2008, behind Spain and Germany; 335 MW of PV was added in the U.S. in 2008, 293 MW of which came in the form of grid-connected installations. Despite the significant year-on-year growth, however, the share of global and U.S. electricity supply met with PV remains small, ... continued below

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Barbose, Galen L.; Wiser, Ryan; Peterman, Carla & Darghouth, Naim October 5, 2009.

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Installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have been growing at a rapid pace in recent years. In 2008, 5,948 MW of PV was installed globally, up from 2,826 MW in 2007, and was dominated by grid-connected applications. The United States was the world's third largest PV market in terms of annual capacity additions in 2008, behind Spain and Germany; 335 MW of PV was added in the U.S. in 2008, 293 MW of which came in the form of grid-connected installations. 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. The market for PV in the U.S. 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 location 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. 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 U.S. The present report, the second in the series, describes installed cost trends from 1998 through 2008. The analysis is based on project-level cost data from more than 52,000 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 566 MW, equal to 71% of all grid-connected PV capacity installed in the U.S. through 2008, representing the most comprehensive source of installed PV cost data for the U.S.9 The report also briefly compares recent PV installed costs in the U.S. to those in Germany and Japan. Finally, it should be noted that the analysis presented here focuses on descriptive trends in the underlying data, and is primarily summarized 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, 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. rack-mounted). 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.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-2674E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/974163 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 974163
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc933419

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  • October 5, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Jan. 4, 2017, 6:04 p.m.

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Barbose, Galen L.; Wiser, Ryan; Peterman, Carla & Darghouth, Naim. Tracking the Sun II: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2008, report, October 5, 2009; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc933419/: accessed November 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.