skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Characteristics of low-priced solar PV systems in the U.S.

Abstract

Despite impressive declines in average prices, there is wide dispersion in the prices of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) systems; prices span more than a factor of four. What are the characteristics of the systems with low-prices? Using detailed characteristics of 42,611 small-scale (<15 kW) PV systems installed in 15 U.S. states during 2013, we identify the most important factors that make a system likely to be low-priced (LP). Comparing LP and non-LP systems, we find statistically significant differences in nearly all characteristics for which we have data. Logit and probit model results robustly indicate that LP systems are associated with: markets with few active installers; experienced installers; customer ownership; large systems; retrofits; and thin-film, low-efficiency, and Chinese modules. We also find significant differences across states, with LP systems much more likely to occur in some states, such as Arizona, New Jersey, and New Mexico, and less likely in others, such as California. Our focus on the left tail of the price distribution provides implications for policy that are distinct from recent studies of mean prices. While those studies find that PV subsidies increase mean prices, we find that subsidies also generate LP systems. PV subsidies appear to simultaneously shift andmore » broaden the price distribution. Much of this broadening occurs in a particular location, northern California.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
1337477
Report Number(s):
NREL/JA-6A20-67631
Journal ID: ISSN 0306-2619
DOE Contract Number:
AC36-08GO28308
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Applied Energy; Journal Volume: 187; Journal Issue: C
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
14 SOLAR ENERGY; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY; subsidies; solar; PV; price dispersion; technological change

Citation Formats

Nemet, Gregory F., O’Shaughnessy, Eric, Wiser, Ryan, Darghouth, Naïm, Barbose, Galen, Gillingham, Ken, and Rai, Varun. Characteristics of low-priced solar PV systems in the U.S.. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.11.056.
Nemet, Gregory F., O’Shaughnessy, Eric, Wiser, Ryan, Darghouth, Naïm, Barbose, Galen, Gillingham, Ken, & Rai, Varun. Characteristics of low-priced solar PV systems in the U.S.. United States. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.11.056.
Nemet, Gregory F., O’Shaughnessy, Eric, Wiser, Ryan, Darghouth, Naïm, Barbose, Galen, Gillingham, Ken, and Rai, Varun. Wed . "Characteristics of low-priced solar PV systems in the U.S.". United States. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.11.056.
@article{osti_1337477,
title = {Characteristics of low-priced solar PV systems in the U.S.},
author = {Nemet, Gregory F. and O’Shaughnessy, Eric and Wiser, Ryan and Darghouth, Naïm and Barbose, Galen and Gillingham, Ken and Rai, Varun},
abstractNote = {Despite impressive declines in average prices, there is wide dispersion in the prices of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) systems; prices span more than a factor of four. What are the characteristics of the systems with low-prices? Using detailed characteristics of 42,611 small-scale (<15 kW) PV systems installed in 15 U.S. states during 2013, we identify the most important factors that make a system likely to be low-priced (LP). Comparing LP and non-LP systems, we find statistically significant differences in nearly all characteristics for which we have data. Logit and probit model results robustly indicate that LP systems are associated with: markets with few active installers; experienced installers; customer ownership; large systems; retrofits; and thin-film, low-efficiency, and Chinese modules. We also find significant differences across states, with LP systems much more likely to occur in some states, such as Arizona, New Jersey, and New Mexico, and less likely in others, such as California. Our focus on the left tail of the price distribution provides implications for policy that are distinct from recent studies of mean prices. While those studies find that PV subsidies increase mean prices, we find that subsidies also generate LP systems. PV subsidies appear to simultaneously shift and broaden the price distribution. Much of this broadening occurs in a particular location, northern California.},
doi = {10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.11.056},
journal = {Applied Energy},
number = C,
volume = 187,
place = {United States},
year = {Wed Feb 01 00:00:00 EST 2017},
month = {Wed Feb 01 00:00:00 EST 2017}
}
  • The price of solar PV systems has declined rapidly, yet there are some much lower-priced systems than others. This study explores the factors that determine prices in these low-priced (LP) systems. Using a data set of 42,611 residential-scale PV systems installed in the U.S. in 2013, we use quantile regressions to estimate the importance of factors affecting the installed prices for LP systems (those at the 10th percentile) in comparison to median-priced systems. We find that the value of solar to consumers-a variable that accounts for subsidies, electric rates, and PV generation levels-is associated with lower prices for LP systemsmore » but higher prices for median priced systems. Conversely, systems installed in new home construction are associated with lower prices at the median but higher prices for LP. Other variables have larger price-reducing effects on LP than on median priced systems: systems installed in Arizona and Florida, as well as commercial and thin film systems. In contrast, the following have a smaller effect on prices for LP systems than median priced systems: tracking systems, self-installations, systems installed in Massachusetts, the system size, and installer experience. Furthermore, these results highlight the complex factors at play that lead to LP systems and shed light into how such LP systems can come about.« less
  • The price of solar PV systems has declined rapidly, yet there are some much lower-priced systems than others. This study explores the factors leading some systems to be so much lower priced than others. Using a data set of 42,611 residential-scale PV systems installed in the U.S. in 2013, we use quantile regressions to estimate the importance of factors affecting the installed prices for low-priced (LP) systems (those at the 10th percentile) in comparison to median-priced systems. We find that the value of solar to consumers–a variable that accounts for subsidies, electric rates, and PV generation levels–is associated with lowermore » prices for LP systems but higher prices for median priced systems. Conversely, systems installed in new home construction are associated with lower prices at the median but higher prices for LP. Other variables have larger cost-reducing effects on LP than on median priced systems: systems installed in Arizona and Florida, as well as commercial and thin film systems. In contrast, the following have a smaller effect on prices for LP systems than median priced systems: tracking systems, self-installations, systems installed in Massachusetts, the system size, and installer experience. These results highlight the complex factors at play that lead to LP systems and shed light into how such LP systems can come about.« less
  • Despite impressive recent cost reductions, there is wide dispersion in the prices of installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. We identify the most important factors that make a system likely to be low priced (LP). Our sample consists of detailed characteristics for 42,611 small-scale (< 15 kW) PV systems installed in 15 U.S. states during 2013. Using four definitions of LP systems, we compare LP and non-LP systems and find statistically significant differences in nearly all factors explored, including competition, installer scale, markets, demographics, ownership, policy, and system components. Logit and probit model results robustly indicate that LP systems are associatedmore » with markets with few active installers; experienced installers; customer ownership; large systems; retrofits; and thin-film, low-efficiency, and Chinese modules. We also find significant differences across states, with LP systems much more likely to occur in some than in others. Our focus on the left tail of the price distribution provides implications for policy that are distinct from recent studies of mean prices. While those studies find that PV subsidies increase mean prices, we find that subsidies also generate LP systems. PV subsidies appear to simultaneously shift and broaden the price distribution. Much of this broadening occurs in a particular location, northern California, which is worthy of further investigation with new data.« less