Survey Provides Insight into U.S. Solar Costs

photovoltaic solar energy, residential solar power, solar power,

Germany's phot0voltaic installations cost less than those in the U.S. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) conducted a survey of photovoltaic solar panel installers to characterize the cost differences between residential photovoltaic installations in Germany and United States.

LBNL gathered data on the number of labor hours and labor costs associated with various soft cost elements for residential photovoltaic panels in Germany.

The survey instrument, adapted from one that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory previously fielded to U.S. installers, provided a source of data on residential photovoltaic soft costs that could be readily compared between the two countries.

The comparison focused specifically on host-customer-owned systems installed in Germany in 2011 and in the U.S. in 2010.

Key findings from the installer survey include:

• German installers reported average soft costs of $0.62/W in 2011, which is roughly $2.70/W lower than the average soft costs reported by U.S. installers,

• Customer acquisition costs averaged just $0.07/W in Germany, or roughly $0.60/W lower than in the U.S.

• Installation labor requirements averaged 7.5 hours for German systems, leading to $0.55/W lower installation labor costs than in the U.S. (though these survey data diverge substantially from other estimates, suggesting a need for further validation)

• Permitting, interconnection, and inspection (PII) processes required 10 hours of labor, on average, in Germany, with no permitting fee, resulting in PII costs roughly $0.20/W less than in the U.S.

• German residential systems are exempt from sales/value-added tax, while U.S. systems are subject to an average sales tax of roughly $0.20/W (when considering the geographical distribution of U.S. systems and the existence of sales tax exemptions for PV in many U.S. states)

• The remaining gap in soft costs between Germany and the U.S. (~$1.15/W) is associated with overhead, profit, and other residual soft costs.