Article
If you think you’re seeing solar panels on more of your neighbors’ houses lately, there’s a good reason: solar power is getting cheaper. Even as federal tax credits are being reduced, installed costs continue to fall. This is thanks to both less expensive – and more efficient – panels and inverters, along with money- and time-saving improvements to all the ancillary hardware required to put systems in place.

Better Solar Components Mean Less Expensive Installations

Chuck Ross
If you think you’re seeing solar panels on more of your neighbors’ houses lately, there’s a good reason: solar power is getting cheaper. Even as federal tax credits are being reduced, installed costs continue to fall. This is thanks to both less expensive – and more efficient – panels and inverters, along with money- and time-saving improvements to all the ancillary hardware required to put systems in place.

The residential solar pricing platform EnergySage has said it has seen median prices on its service fall 24% between the second half of 2014 and the same period in 2019. Today, consumers are seeing average costs at half of what they were in 2009, according to the company’s figures. Now, less than 2% of the quotes delivered through its service are above $4/Watt, where costs were above $8/Watt in 2009.

One factor in these cost declines is related to more efficient panels. Today’s offerings are able to generate more electricity from the same amount of sunlight. Panels from 2002 could only manage to turn 12.7 of the sun’s energy into electricity, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. That figure rose to a median of 18.4% in 2018. And the latest commercial products boast efficiencies over 20%. Panels now capable of producing over 400 watts each have recently entered the market. With these production levels, fewer panels are needed to meet homeowner needs – which also means less hardware and labor.

And, as the industry has matured, manufacturers also have optimized standard hardware designs for solar applications. This means less work for contractors who previously might have had to search out multiple components that could stand up to harsh rooftop operating conditions. These offerings also might integrate fittings into hardware bodies, which both reduces labor and helps ensure the integrity of system connections.

Solar installation has taken a hit, with the arrival of COVID-19. Energy analysts with Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables see the market falling 18% in 2020, with Bloomberg New Energy Finance lowering its previous annual forecast by 28% due to the pandemic. Even in the face of this slowdown, however, solar-product manufacturers are continuing to innovate in ways that should lead to even lower installed costs as the industry begins its recovery.
Photo courtesy of Bridgeport Fittings
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