Progress Continues for US Residential Solar: Reviewing the Newest Numbers – The Equation


Autumn is a time of shorter days and longer nights (and fewer solar), however it is usually when the annual studies on US progress on solar energy come out from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). And the latest one on advances in techniques for houses, companies, and establishments has loads to sink your tooth into whereas munching on an apple cider donut.

The new Tracking the Sun report from LBNL covers solar photovoltaic (PV) techniques for the “grid-connected, distributed” piece of the solar story for each residential and “non-residential” as much as a sure measurement.

The report charts continued progress in a number of vital classes in 2021, together with PV module effectivity, system prices, and the prevalence of batteries, that are a increasingly vital piece of the solar image.

PV modules preserve getting extra environment friendly

One discovering is that the effectivity of PV modules preserve climbing. Median values for modules in residential techniques rose from 13.6 % for techniques put in in 2002 to twenty.1 % in 2021—that’s a 48 % enhance, a lot of it within the final decade. Non-residential techniques confirmed related will increase.

Part of that progress is as a result of growing dominance of more-efficient mono-crystalline applied sciences (those with smooth-looking single-crystal cells). For residential techniques, their share rose from 41 % in 2016 to 98 % in 2021. LBNL additionally mentions the growing use of passivated emitter rear-cell know-how, or PERC.  

Source: LBNL 2022

Note that these figures are median efficiencies; modules are literally accessible with efficiencies significantly increased. The (non-PERC) ones alone roof, for instance, are 22 % environment friendly.

Solar retains getting cheaper

A second takeaway is that spectacular value drops have continued for the techniques included in LBNL’s evaluation. For residential techniques,  they discovered that median costs per watt fell 63 % from 2007 to 2021. And for small and enormous non-residential techniques, the value drops had been much more pronounced: 72 and 77 %, respectively. LBNL discovered extra drops from 2020 to 2021 of three.4, 3.9, and 11 % for residential, small non-residential, and enormous non-residential techniques, respectively.

Source: LBNL 2022

While earlier value drops got here largely from reductions in the price of PV modules, progress lately has come from enhancements in what LBNL calls “residual BOS+soft costs” classes. The BOS, or steadiness of system, is the gear aside from the module and the inverter, the piece that converts the DC power from the modules to AC for the home and the electrical energy grid. These comfortable prices embrace all the opposite issues that go into making a system occur, comparable to allowing and set up.

PV techniques are getting bigger

The decrease costs and better efficiencies have helped gas one other pattern revealed in LBNL’s information: residential techniques are getting bigger. The median measurement in 2021 was 7 kilowatts, up 39 % from a decade earlier than.

Source: LBNL 2022

To be clear, all this doesn’t imply that techniques must get bigger—simply that perhaps they’ll. A 5-kilowatt system, the usual for a home system not way back, nonetheless produces simply as a lot as a 5-kilowatt system used to. A system that measurement simply is likely to be that less expensive. But the value drops additionally imply {that a} given solar price range can probably get you extra solar.

Economies of scale additionally come into play: for residential techniques, LBNL discovered that an 8-to-9 kilowatt system in 2018 was on common 13 % cheaper per watt than a 4-to-5 kilowatt one.

And the upper efficiencies imply {that a} given roof space can match that rather more. (I do know: I maxed out my roof space squeezing each kilowatt of solar I may up there.)

Energy storage comes on sturdy

As for resilience: solar modules have been loads sturdy for years. Even early in my solar profession producers would say their merchandise would stand up to one-inch hailstones. And the warranties for many panels lengthened to 25 years some time again.

What’s completely different now could be the prevalence of energy storage that may make the techniques themselves extra resilient. From 2016 to 2021 storage leapt from 0.1 to 10 % for residential techniques in LBNL’s pattern, and from 1 to 4.9 % for non-residential.

Source: LBNL 2022

Hawaii leads the pack in adoption, with storage included in 93 % of residential installations and 59 % of non-residential, due to sturdy incentives for self-consumption (utilizing your individual solar manufacturing in your personal wants). California leads for general numbers of techniques with storage; the Golden State has storage on 11 % of residential techniques and 5 % of non-residential—pushed, says LBNL, by the state’s energy storage rebates and “resilience concerns” (suppose excessive climate and blackouts). And Texas was notable for its enhance in curiosity in storage after its extreme February 2021 winter storm.

Much extra to return

The newest report covers only a piece of what’s occurring in solar; LBNL studies on large-scale techniques elsewhere. And it focuses on the know-how and the economics, not on, say, who solar is reaching.

But the happenings within the residential, industrial, and institutional market segments are actually vital for our very important transfer to scrub energy. And there’s much more solar exercise underway and on its method—particularly with the brand new federal Inflation Reduction Act’s 10-year extension of the tax credit which have been so highly effective for driving renewable energy, together with solar.

With increased efficiencies, decrease costs, and extra resilience, solar simply retains getting higher.


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