BERKELEY, Calif. — The installed price of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the U.S. continues to fall, according to the latest edition of “Tracking the Sun,” an annual PV cost tracking report produced by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Installed prices for residential and small nonresidential systems completed in 2014 were $0.40 per watt (W) lower, and prices for large non-residential systems were $0.70 per W lower, than in the prior year.

“This marked the fifth consecutive year of significant price reductions for distributed PV systems in the U.S.,” noted Galen Barbose of Berkeley Lab’s Electricity Markets and Policy Group, the report’s lead author.

Within the first six months of 2015, installed prices within a number of large state markets fell by an additional $0.20 to $0.50 per W, or 6-13 percent, maintaining the steady pace of solar price declines in recent years.

The continued decline in PV system pricing is especially noteworthy given the relatively stable price of PV modules since 2012. The report attributes recent system price declines to reductions in solar “soft” costs. These include such things as marketing and customer acquisition, system design, installation labor, permitting, and inspections. Attention in the industry has focused on soft costs, and the report suggests these efforts are partly responsible for recent price declines.

The report, “Tracking the Sun VIII: The Installed Price of Residential and Non-residential Photovoltaic Systems in the United States,” examines various other drivers for PV system prices, such as system size, the state in which the system is installed, whether it’s owned by the site host or a third party, whether it’s installed in new construction or on existing buildings, whether the site host is a for-profit commercial or tax-exempt entity, the module efficiency level, whether the system uses a microinverter or a standard string inverter, and whether the system is installed on a rooftop or is ground-mounted, either with or without tracking.

The latest edition of “Tracking the Sun,” along with a summary slide deck and data file, may be downloaded at

Publication date: 9/7/2015 

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