Solar energy has sex appeal. If you want to show the world you’re doing something to reduce pollution, you put photovoltaic (PV) panels on your roof to generate clean electricity. Even better, you drive a plug-in hybrid or an all-electric car and charge your car’s batteries with your clean solar electricity.
The good news for solar enthusiasts is the cost of installing a solar electric system on your home just keeps falling and falling. Let’s take a look at some data and then ask if it’s time to abandon energy efficiency.
2 new studies on the cost of solar
In August I saw that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) had published a study showing that the cost of solar has fallen to about half of what it was in 2010. The graph below shows the data.
Residential solar, the laggard in the group above, fell from a little over $7 per watt in 2010 to about $4 per watt in 2015. The others all fell to half or less of their 2010 prices.
Two weeks ago I received an email from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) with word of another study on the falling cost of solar. This one, titled U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark: Q1 2016 (pdf), includes the first quarter of 2016. The graph at right displays some of the data.
Their report shows the costs for other sectors, too, but here I just posted the graph for residential solar. The LBNL report shows an average of about $4/watt in 2015. The NREL report shows $2.93/watt for the first quarter of this year.
These numbers are great. I’ve been a solar enthusiast for a long time, and I recall the days — not that long ago actually — when everyone was saying, “Solar will really take off when…