As reported previously, Germany had about 21.6 times more solar power installed per capita at the end of 2011 than the US (301.47 MW per million people versus 13.973 MW per million people). In absolute numbers, Germany had about 5.63 times more solar power installed (24,678 MW versus 4,383 MW). These differences also translate into big differences in solar costs, as the most recent installation cost numbers show.
According to BSW Solar, the average cost of installed solar power per watt peak was €1.776, or $2.24, in Q2 of 2012 (as we noted back in May). By contrast, as the most recent GTM Research and SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight report finds, the average price per watt for solar in the US was $4.44 in Q1 of 2012. That’s a pretty huge difference. And it’s just a testament of what strong solar policy can do for solar power costs.
“Since Germany is dominated by rooftop systems (72 percent of installations in 2011), this is an impressively low number,” Greentech Media writes. “Assuming a module price of around $0.90 per watt peak, this implies an average balance of system cost of $1.34 per watt peak.”
As our resident German writer Thomas would probably note, a solar revolution in Germany was never a given — it has been fought consistently and solar power myths have been spread far and wide there just as they have in the US. And they still are. But the efforts and intelligence to push it to this amazing point have clearly been greater compared to the opposition than in the US so far.
At least it leaves us with an example to look up to and proof for the naysayers.
And, of course, it’s not to say solar power prices aren’t dropping in the US. As mentioned less than a week ago, the average price of installed solar in the US decreased 17.2% from Q1 2011 to Q1 2012.
Going on along these lines, Greentech Media writes: “Residential system prices fell by 4.8 percent from Q4 2011 to Q1 2012, with the national average installed price falling from $6.18 per watt to $5.89 per watt. Non-residential system prices fell by 6 percent quarter to quarter, from $4.92 per watt to $4.63 per watt. Utility system prices declined for the eighth consecutive quarter in a row, dropping from $3.20 per watt in Q4 2011 to $2.90 per watt in Q1 2012.”
Additionally, it makes the DOE’s SunShot goal of getting installers to put solar up for an average price of $2/watt pretty darn do-able, doesn’t it?
Assuming that solar hardware costs are pretty similar in the US and Germany, one of the prime culprits for the higher overall costs is the “soft costs” of going solar, which is exactly what the SunShot Initiative is currently taking aim at.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on your favorite social network, go to: zacharyshahan.com