US Solar Now 59% Cheaper Than Analysts Predicted Back In 2010

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The cost of utility-scale US solar energy is currently 59% cheaper than what industry analysts predicted back in 2010 it would be by now, according to a new report from the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

In addition to that rather striking figure, the new report also notes that between the years of 2012-2013, the price of a residential/small-business-scale solar system fell by a very notable 12–15%. The report also notes that, in some locations, the price may fall by a further 3–12% before the end of the year.


According to the report, the median price in the US for a completed 10-kW-or-less PV system (residential or small-business scale) was $4.69 per watt in 2013. With systems quoted “in 2012 but expected to be installed in 2013, the median price went down to $3.71 per watt. That’s all compared to $5.30 per watt in 2012, according to work the LBNL did on this same topic last year.”

Climate Progress provides more:

Significantly, the per-watt price for utility-scale solar continued to decline in 2014 to $1.80 — 59% below where modeling in 2010 predicted it would be this year. That’s good news for the Energy Department’s Sunshot Initiative, which helped fund the report, and which aims to drop the cost of solar technologies 75% from 2010 to 2020 by funding various universities, national laboratories and private sector projects.


“There is still considerable uncertainty as to how low PV system prices will drop in the next five to 10 years,” stated David Feldman, one of the lead authors of the new report, and an analyst at NREL. “However, there appears to be an emerging consensus that the SunShot’s price reduction targets are within reach and more and more likely to be realized. We see this reflected in the fact that many of the current projections are far lower than projections made in the recent past by the same sources.”

Unsurprisingly, there are regional differences with regard to prices — with Texas possessing the lowest median price for small-scale systems in 2012 ($3.90 per watt). These numbers dropped to $3.47 per watt in 2013 — when the state was overtaken by Florida, which had a median price of $3.33 per watt.

The report predicts that the median price of small-scale systems will fall to between $1.50-$3.00 per watt by the end of 2016.

A final takeaway with regard to the drop in costs — the cost per watt of a solar PV cell has fallen 99% since 1977. Something to think about.


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Image Credit: NREL

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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