This is an excerpt from the September 24, 2012: Storing solar with sulfur, playing it safe with Solar ABCs, and quantifying the soft-cost spectrum edition of the SunShot newsletter.
LBNL Study Compares U.S. and German Soft Costs
The wide disparity between the price of residential photovoltaic (PV) systems in Germany and the United States can be attributed primarily to differences in the nonhardware, or soft costs, associated with solar energy system installations. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) fielded a survey of German PV installers to collect granular data on the various soft cost elements for residential PV in Germany to better characterize the nature of these differences.
German installers reported average soft costs of $0.62 per watt (W) in 2011, which is roughly $2.70/W lower than the average soft costs reported by U.S. installers. LBNL researchers compared additional cost contributors, such as customer acquisition, labor, and permitting, interconnection, and inspection, for host-customer-owned systems installed in Germany in 2011 and in the United States in 2010.
The complete analysis titled "Why Are Residential PV Prices in Germany So Much Lower Than in the United States? A Scoping Analysis," is publicly available for review. The research team emphasizes that the effort serves as a preliminary scoping analysis, highlighting specific areas where further research could reveal additional insights and opportunities to drive cost reductions within the United States.
This work was supported by the DOE Solar Program under the SunShot Initiative. For more information about ongoing projects, visit LBNL's Environmental Energy Technologies Division website.