US Non-Residential Rooftop Solar System Installation Prices Fell 4% in 2019

Prices for large non-residential systems fell 4%

January 4, 2021


The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has released the ‘Tracking the Sun’ report 2019, which summarizes installation prices and other trends among grid-connected, distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States of America.

The update includes data on more than 1.9 million systems installed through 2019, covering 82% of all distributed PV systems installed across the country.

According to the report, the national median installed prices fell, from 2018 to 2019, by roughly 1% for residential rooftop solar systems, remained more or less flat for small non-residential systems, and fell by 4% for large non-residential systems.

However, according to the 2018 report published by Berkeley Lab, national median installed prices fell year-over-year (YoY) by 5-7%, depending on the specific distributed PV customer segment.

These declines are broadly in-line with trends over the past five years. The national median installed prices in 2018 were $3.7/W for residential, $3.0/W for small non-residential, and $2.4/W for large non-residential systems.

In 2018, the installed prices varied widely across projects. Among residential systems installed in 2018, prices for host-owned systems ranged from $3.1/W to $4.5/W between the 20th and 80th percentile levels, and prices for small and large non-residential systems varied across similarly wide ranges.

System Size Trends

Meanwhile, among residential systems installed in 2019, the lowest 20% were priced below $3.1/W, while the highest 20% were above $4.5/W. The distributions for non-residential systems exhibit similarly wide spreads.

National Installed Price Trends

Across all three customer segments, these are the slowest annual percentage declines since 2006-2008. However, pricing continues to vary widely across individual projects, reflecting the differences in system sizing and design, installer-level pricing strategies, and local market conditions.

According to the latest report of LBNL on the solar market’s key trends in the United States, more than 4.5 GW of utility-scale solar power installations achieved commercial operation, taking the total cumulative installed capacity to 29 GW in 2019. The projects were spread across ten regions and concentrated mostly in the country’s western and south-eastern parts.

Over the past five years, solar (31%) and wind (28%) have accounted for 59% of all capacity additions to the U.S. grid, out of which utility-scale solar accounted for 18% of the total solar additions.

Earlier in August,  LBNL released its findings dealing with utility-owned rooftop solar program’s economic viability in the United States.

According to the report, over 20 years, the program increases the shareholder earnings of utilities by 2-5% relative to a non-solar scenario. This contrasts with the 2% loss of earnings when an equivalent amount of rooftop solar is deployed but owned by non-utility parties. The report notes that such a utility-owned residential rooftop solar program can be highly attractive from a utility investor’s perspective.