Prices of utility-scale solar photovoltaic systems have fallen by about 30% over the past year, according to a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The average price for a fixed tilt PV system has fallen to $1.03/watt-DC and to $1.11/watt-DC for a system with tracking, according to NREL.
- Most of price decline is attributable to the collapse of PV module prices as a result of a mismatch between supply and demand in China.
While the decline in PV module prices is good news for developers and consumers of solar power systems, it is not good news for module makers, especially those based in the United States.
Low-cost Chinese PV panels prompted Suniva in May to file a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking relief from foreign manufactured crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules.
The company is asking for tariffs on all solar panels imported into the U.S., not just panels from China. The company is seeking an initial additional tariff of $0.40/watt and a floor price of $0.78/watt.
Falling module prices mean that utility-scale solar systems have already beaten the 2020 targets set by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative. And NREL estimates the lower prices translate into a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of $50-66/MWh for fixed tilt systems and of $44-$61/MWh for tracking systems if the value of the investment tax credit is not included.
Prices for commercial and industrial and residential solar systems have not fallen as quickly, however. NREL found that C&I fell by 15% to $1.85/watt-DC while residential prices fell 6% to $2.80/watt. That translates to an LCOE of $92-120/MWh for C&I systems and $129-167/MWh for residential systems.
That puts C&I and residential systems at 89% and 86% of 2020 SunShot targets, respectively, while utility-scale PV has reached its 2020 SunShot target three years early.
The original SunShot target was for solar power to reach parity with baseload energy rates of $0.06/kWh without subsidies, or an installed cost of $1/watt, by 2020. C&I and residential solar were later given their own goals of $0.07/kWh and $0.09/kWh, respectively, or installed costs of $1.25/watt and $1.50/watt, respectively.
Last week, DOE announced it would expand the SunShot initiative. Under the new targets, utility-scale solar panel costs would be trimmed to $0.03/kWh. C&I and residential costs were given goals of $0.04/kWh and $0.05 kWh respectively.