Ever wondered why there are so many more rooftop solar systems in countries like Germany (which is not considered particularly sunny) than there are in the sunniest places in the United States?
It’s the cost, of course. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) has just released a study that compares the installed cost of rooftop solar systems in the U.S. and Germany. The installed cost includes the actual solar equipment but also includes “soft costs” – the costs associated with marketing/customer acquisition; permitting, interconnection, and inspecting; and installation labor.
These soft costs – which don’t include the actual solar system (panels, inverter, mounting hardware, etc.) – account for nearly half of the installation cost of rooftop solar in the U.S. Yet in Germany, the report finds, soft costs are a whopping $2.70 per watt lower than in the United States – which equates to about $13,500 for an average 5 kilowatt-hour residential system. So assuming an average panel cost of around $1.80 per watt, that same 5-kilowatt system would cost an average of $25,000 to install in the United States, compared to around $12,500 – 50% less – in Germany.
Solving the soft cost dilemma – such as through the costly permitting process – is they key to reducing the cost of rooftop solar for homeowners and the resulting lower energy costs, and making solar a reality for many more in the middle class Americans.