Solar prices are dropping so fast, many Americans may not have to wait much longer to consider that rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installation.
A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) predicts that 2014 will have charted a 3-12 percent drop in solar PV prices, depending on the location. That follows a drop in 2013 of 12-19 percent, depending on the place and market segment.
The report, Photovoltaic System Pricing Trends, found that residential PV systems installed in 2013 netted out at a median of $4.69 per watt. Larger commercial installations came in at a median of $3.89 per watt.
That means a homeowner needing a 4 kilowatt system, which could power an entire well-insulated house, could buy it for around $19,000.
By comparison, the price for residential solar was about $9 per watt and nearly $8 for commercial properties in 2007.
Still, installed prices for residential solar remain high in the US, compared to other countries such as Germany, the authors wrote. Since hardware costs are mostly the same, the researchers concluded that “soft costs” or installation costs, fees and permitting, are largely what makes US solar more costly.
In Germany, a leader in solar installations, the per watt price for installed solar was around $2 per watt (converted from euros) in 2013, according to the report.