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New data illustrates trends in distributed solar pricing and design trends

image credit: Image: Berkeley Lab
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Staff Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

The Electricity Markets and Policy Group (EMP.LBL.gov) is part of the US Department of Energy's network of national labs.  EMP conducts technical, economic, and policy analysis of energy topics...

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Berkeley Lab has released the Distributed Solar 2020 Data Update, providing the most complete current look at prices, deployment trends, business models, and technology choices for rooftop and other distributed solar systems.

These data are available in the form of a slide deck summary, a public data file, interactive data visualizations, and summary data tables.

The release provides an updated overview of data and trends for grid-connected, distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, defined to include roof-mounted systems of any size plus ground-mounted systems up to 5 MW in size. This year’s update includes data on more than 1.9 million systems installed through 2019, collected from utilities, state agencies, and other organizations across the country. In aggregate, the dataset covers 82% of all distributed PV systems installed nationally through 2019.

As in prior years, the data update focuses to a large degree on installed prices reported for distributed PV projects, describing both historical trends and variability in pricing across projects. With respect to the historical price trajectory (Figure 1), national median installed prices fell, from 2018 to 2019, by roughly 1% for residential systems, remained essentially flat for small non-residential systems, and fell by 4% for large non-residential systems. Across all three customer segments, these are the slowest annual percentage declines since 2006-2008.

Figure 1. National Installed Price Trends

Pricing continues to vary widely across individual projects (Figure 2), reflecting, among other things, differences in system sizing and design, installer-level pricing strategies, and local market conditions. For example, among residential systems installed in 2019, the lowest 20% were priced below $3.1/W, while the highest 20% were above $4.5/W. The distributions for non-residential systems exhibit similarly wide spreads.

Figure 2. Installed Price Distributions for 2019 Systems**

In addition to data on installed prices, the data update also covers a broad range of trends related to distributed PV system design, including:

  • system sizing
  • module efficiency
  • module-level power electronics
  • inverter-loading ratios
  • solar+storage installations
  • mounting configuration
  • panel orientation
  • third-party ownership
  • customer segmentation.

An interactive data dashboard allows the user to drill down on data on system design, installed prices, and market characteristics by state and customer segment.

Further details on the data update can be found on the Berkeley Lab EMP website.

The work was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

Notes: Based on a subset of the overall data sample, excluding third-party owned (TPO) systems, systems with battery storage, and self-installed systems. Small and Large Non-Residential systems are differentiated based on a 100-kW size threshold. See data update materials for further details on component-level pricing trends, state-level trends, and trends in reported pricing for TPO systems.

**See data update materials for installed price comparisons by system size, state, installer, module efficiency level, inverter type, mounting type, and site host type.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 16, 2020

Great and important visualizations-- thanks for sharing!

Any forecast on what the coming years might look like if/when tax credits for renewable projects expire? 

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