Revised August 28, 2007
by Paul Gipe
The following chart summarizes actual installed cost of solar PV systems mostly in California. Note that the California data is in the public domain and can be downloaded from the California Energy Commission (CEC) web site. These are the actual prices customers, mostly residential–but not all–are paying.
There are two programs in California: one administered by the CEC, the other by the California Public Utility Commission. The data here is predominantly from the CEC. The CEC data analysed here for 2006 and early 2007 represents nearly 20,000 systems comprising nearly 100 MW of capacity. The PUC program covers larger systems.
California currently operates 200 MW of solar PV. The data in the table accounts for nearly half of the total installed solar capacity in the state. California is the largest solar market in North America by an order of magnitude greater than any other state or province and is the third largest worldwide after Germany and Japan.
Note that unlike nearly everyone else in the world, California reports its data in AC kilowatts. That is, the representative capacity of the installation after the inverter. This is in part a response to the way the California subsidy (buy-down) program works and the desire by policymakers to pay as little as possible for each system. All others report installation data in DC kilowatts or the amount of capacity represented by the sum of the DC power produced by the modules. That is, before the inverters.
Thus, it can be very confusing to compare data on installed costs in Germany to those in California without first taking this oddity of the California market into account.
To summarize, the average installed cost of solar PV in California is about $8,000 CAD/kW(DC). Systems greater than 100 kW cost about $7,500 CAD/kW (DC). Large systems may be installed for as little as $7,100/kW (DC), costs similar to those in Germany.