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  1. The geography of solar energy in the United States: Market definition, industry structure, and choice in solar PV adoption

    The solar photovoltaic (PV) installation industry comprises thousands of firms around the world who collectively installed nearly 200 million panels in 2015. Spatial analysis of the emerging industry has received considerable attention from the literature, especially on the demand side concerning peer effects and adopter clustering. However this research area does not include similarly sophisticated spatial analysis on the supply side of the installation industry. The lack of understanding of the spatial structure of the PV installation industry leaves PV market research to rely on jurisdictional lines, such as counties, to define geographic PV markets. We develop an approach thatmore » uses the spatial distribution of installers' activity to define geographic boundaries for PV markets. Our method is useful for PV market research and applicable in the contexts of other industries. We use our approach to demonstrate that the PV industry in the United States is spatially heterogeneous. Despite the emergence of some national-scale PV installers, installers are largely local and installer communities are unique from one region to the next. The social implications of the spatial heterogeneity of the emerging PV industry involve improving understanding of issues such as market power, industry consolidation, and how much choice potential adopters have.« less
  2. Characteristics of low-priced solar PV systems in the U.S.

    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:more » 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.« less
  3. Characteristics of low-priced solar PV systems in the U.S.

  4. Using the Spatial Distribution of Installers to Define Solar Photovoltaic Markets

    Solar PV market research to date has largely relied on arbitrary jurisdictional boundaries, such as counties, to study solar PV market dynamics. This paper seeks to improve solar PV market research by developing a methodology to define solar PV markets. The methodology is based on the spatial distribution of solar PV installers. An algorithm is developed and applied to a rich dataset of solar PV installations to study the outcomes of the installer-based market definitions. The installer-based approach exhibits several desirable properties. Specifically, the higher market granularity of the installer-based approach will allow future PV market research to study themore » relationship between market dynamics and pricing with more precision.« less
  5. What factors affect the prices of low-priced U.S. solar PV systems?

    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
  6. What Factors Affect the Prices of Low-Priced U.S. Solar PV Systems?

    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
  7. Characteristics of Low-Priced Solar Photovoltaic Systems in the United States

    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
  8. Deconstructing Solar Photovoltaic Pricing: The Role of Market Structure, Technology, and Policy

    Solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices in the United States display considerable heterogeneity both across geographic locations and within a given location. Such heterogeneity may arise due to state and federal policies, differences in market structure, and other factors that influence demand and costs. This paper examines the relative importance of such factors on equilibrium solar PV system prices in the United States using a detailed dataset of roughly 100,000 recent residential and small commercial installations. As expected, we find that PV system prices differ based on characteristics of the systems. More interestingly, we find evidence suggesting that search costs andmore » imperfect competition affect solar PV pricing. Installer density substantially lowers prices, while regions with relatively generous financial incentives for solar PV are associated with higher prices.« less

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"Nemet, Gregory"

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