Thousands of homes in the US have already benefited from localized solar installations, and with the help of tax incentives, perhaps millions more could do the same. But, some may balk, even with incentives, solar installations are expensive up front. However, according to a report released by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “Tracking the Sun,” solar installation are actually getting cheaper.
The biggest expense, typically, of any solar installation, is the photovoltaic [PV] solar panels, of course there are also installation charges, and then the other big expense is the management system.
PV prices have dropped drastically over the past couple of years, both due to technological advances and increased production. In addition to the reduced prices for the PV panels themselves, management systems have also dropped significantly.
“The drop in non-module costs is especially important,” notes report co-author Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, “as these costs can be most readily influenced by local, state, and national policies aimed at accelerating deployment and removing market barriers.”
Solar installations completed in 2011 were cheaper, averaging up to 14% less, when compared to 2010. Typically, the smaller the system rating, the more expensive it will be. Systems installed smaller than 10kW, residential and small business installations, averaged $6.10/W, while utility-scale installations, over 2,000W cost between $2.80/W and $3.40/W.
Unfortunately, tax incentives for solar installations have fallen by as much as 80% over the last decade, and up to 40% in just the last year alone. Still, current incentives range from 90¢/W to $1.20/W, which help to make the already-cheaper technology more attractive.