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Published on February 20th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Tools To Bring Down Solar Soft Costs



This article was originally published on Solar Love.

It’s no secret that soft costs have not come down as fast as solar module costs (in the U.S.). Solar module costs have come down about 75% in the past 3–4 years. But soft costs haven’t moved nearly as much. As the story linked above shows, there are a number of reasons why that’s the case.

A handful of companies, university researchers, and government agencies are working hard to find ways to bring soft costs down. Clean Power Research is one of those.

In a short article on the matter, Clean Power Research writes, “Module prices, which three or four years ago made up 50% or more of total system costs for residential customers, are now often less than 25% of total system costs. Soft costs have barely budged in absolute terms, and have increased from 25% or so of system costs just a few years ago to close to half of system costs today.”

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Also in that post, Clean Power Research notes some of the tools it offers to help bring down soft costs:

“Our Clean Power Estimator and QuickQuotes products have been helping companies lower the costs of customer acquisition for many years. Our PowerClerk software has dramatically reduced the administrative costs associated with incentives across many states, and we’re currently expanding the PowerClerk lineup to include capabilities that will help reduce the costs associated with interconnection.”

From an initial glance, these tools look highly useful.

In a separate article, Clean Power Research also brings up how PowerClerk has helped to advance solar growth in California and bring down costs:

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) – the nation’s largest municipal utility – processed 400% more solar incentives in the 2011-2012 fiscal year after implementing a new, more efficient program management solution from Black & Veatch and Clean Power Research.

As a result of the new program, LADWP:

  • Provided incentives for approximately 1,900 solar projects totaling 21.8 MW of generation, up from 8.8 MW the previous year – more than doubling electric generation from its Solar Incentive Program.
  • Reduced application review time by approximately 65%.
  • Doubled their rate of payments.

A key feature of the streamlined solution was the integration of PowerClerk, a self-service online tool that makes it easy to apply for an incentive, and allows program administrators to efficiently process applications.

Learn more about how LADWP is using PowerClerk directly from Kenneth Pritchett, engineering associate at LADWP and manager of the Solar Incentive Program:

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • shecky vegas

    If you’re talking about the time and costs referencing paper trails and permits, I’m behind you 100%.
    But if you’re talking labor costs, I’m sorry. I prefer my workers have the ability to feed themselves and their families.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Labor cost reductions don’t necessarily mean paying workers less.

      Labor costs can also be cut by working more productively. Making sure that crews get to the work site with everything they need to finish the job. Using the most efficient to install racking systems.

      Labor costs can also be cut by making sure safety procedures are followed. That helps keep labor-related insurance premiums down.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      This is all about the former, i think. Regarding the latter, I think the price difference with Germany is not due to wages but to how long the whole process takes.

    • Ronald Brakels

      In Australia and Germany wages are higher than in the US, so the US should be able to increase what it pays installers and still match Australian and then German installation costs.

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