Berkeley Labs: Median prices for residential PV systems in the US remained flat at $3.8 per watt in 2020

The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory has released the 2021 edition of its »Tracking the Sun« annual report, describing pricing and design trends for grid-connected, distributed solar PV systems in the U.S. The latest edition is based on data from roughly 2.2 million systems installed nationally through year-end 2020.
According to the study, PV systems continue to grow in size, with median sizes in 2020 reaching 6.5 kW for residential systems and 42 kW for non-residential systems. Sizes also vary considerably within each sector, particularly for non-residential systems, 20 percent of which were larger than 200 kW in 2020. Within the residential sector, state-level median system sizes ranged from 6.4 kW to 10.6 kW in 2020, and in most states topped 7.5 kW.
Median module efficiencies rose from 13.4 percent in 2002 to 19.8 percent in 2020, with similar rises for non-residential systems as well. Module-level power electronics (either microinverters or DC optimizers) have continued to gain share across the sample, representing 94 percent of residential systems, 71 percent of small non-residential systems, and 26 percent of large non-residential systems installed in 2020, says the report.
Roughly half (48 percent) of all large non-residential systems installed in 2020 are ground-mounted, and 10 percent have tracking. In comparison, 18 percent of small non-residential and 2 percent of residential systems are ground-mounted. Panel orientation has become more varied over time, with 54 percent of systems installed in 2020 facing southward, 24 percent to the west, and most of the remainder to the east.
Over the long-term, U.S. median installed prices have fallen by roughly $0.4/W per year, on average. Over the last year of the analysis period (2019 to 2020), median prices for residential systems remained effectively flat at $3.8/W. While module prices continued to fall in 2020, those declines were offset for residential systems by a slight uptick in soft costs. According to the findings, »this marks a departure from historical trends, where soft costs have generally fallen by $0.1-0.2/W per year, across all three customer segments.«
Year-over-year (YoY) in the US states residential sector changes in median prices ranged from a $0.5/W rise for Wisconsin to a $0.3/W drop for Delaware. Over the past 5 years, however, median residential prices fell by $0.1 to $0.2/W across almost all states in the sample. Similarly, YoY changes in the non-residential sector range from a $0.2/W increase to a $0.6/W decrease across individual states, while most states have seen an average 5-year price decline of $0.1-0.3/W per year.
The solar industry accounted for 56 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity additions in the first half of 2021. The U.S. officially surpassed 3 million solar installations in Q2. New forecasts from Wood Mackenzie show that the U.S. will average just over 29 GW of new annual solar capacity additions through 2026. To reach President Biden’s 2035 clean energy targets, the solar industry must install more than 80 GW of solar annually from 2022 through 2035.
The report »Tracking the Sun 2021« is available free of charge and is published in slide-deck format (40 pages, see link below).
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