Why Solar Costs More in the U.S. Than in Germany

Solar Costs More in the U.S. Than in Germany, what about Australia?

A recent report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in USA shows that in 2011, residential solar system installers paid a little over $1.80 per watt for solar panels in both Germany and the United States. But in Germany the cost of installation was $1.20 per watt compared to USA where it was $4.36 per watt, more than three times as much.


 Why was the question LBL were trying to answer.

The first and most obvious difference between USA and Germany was the total amount of solar power installed in each country—Germany has installed 5 times as much.

They believe Germany having breached the learning curve reduces ongoing costs. Call it Solar Intellectual Capital. However they believe the learning curve only accounts for half the difference.

high.cost_.solar_.chart1_They identified other issues.

Costs for permitting, connecting the systems to the grid, and having them inspected are also far higher in the USA.

The Germans spent only three cents a watt on these things, while U.S. installers spend 20 cents, in part because of larger amounts of paperwork and the permitting fees U.S. installers have to pay.

U.S. installers also spend more on labor, more in sales tax (German installers are exempt) and more for overhead (which is closely related to economies of scale).

US installers take longer to install, more hours than the Germans do to install

Residential systems in Germany are generally larger than USA so that would reduce the labor overhead component per installation.

In the US permitting and interconnection fees are higher than in Germany.

Probably a consequence of scale and permitting and interconnection fees, Germany has a lower labor cost than USA for processing the paperwork (wonder where Australia fits here?)

USA has higher business overhead costs like insurance, material storage costs.

USA lower sales volumes means fixed costs are spread over a smaller number of units and they miss profiting from economies of scale.

US installers have higher cost of capital for their own business operation.

US installers face higher transaction costs associated with arranging financing for customers (Suppose if the price is higher more people need finance, though suspect many are comfortable with finance because they view it as less out of pocket).

USA has higher marketing and advertising costs.

The report lists some more possible explanations:

USA has a lower degree of competition among installers, maintaining higher profit margins (so that would justify the higher marketing and advertising costs).
US has a longer supply chain for PV modules and other hardware
Value based pricing allows for higher prices in the US, given better irradiation, high retail rates in some regions, and more generous subsidies


Its interesting they knocked off some excuses:

There was a claim Hardware component costs are lower in Germany, they found possibly true for inverters, but uncertain for other. Belief  USA has a lower share of cheaper Chinese modules was found to be untrue. Whilst US installers have higher wages for installation labor, it was viewed as not true for other labor.

Part of the difference, for example, is due to higher costs for inverters in the U.S. But the report comes short of explaining the entire price difference—about $1.30 of the price difference remains unaccounted for. The researchers speculate that some part of the difference is higher profits in USA.


“We will see a substantial improvement, even if we just replicate the practices in Germany,” – Ryan Wiser, a staff scientist at LBNL and one of the authors of the new report.

Anyone who can extend this to include comparison to Australia please let us know. Certainly it shows how a level of Government support can establish national economic advantage.

This article is from MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW by Kevin Bullis and published in Mashable.

Posted in Cost of Solar, Residential Solar, Solar power

Japanese breakthrough will make wind power cheaper than nuclear

mother-nature-network-logo_1Japanese breakthrough will make wind power cheaper than nuclear

A surprising aerodynamic innovation in wind turbine design called the ‘wind lens’ could triple the output of a typical wind turbine, making it less costly than nuclear power.

NOTE: Some major wind projects like the proposed TWE Carbon Valley project in Wyoming are already pricing in significantly lower than coal power — $80 per MWh for wind versus $90 per MWh for coal — and that is without government subsidies using today’s wind turbine technology.

The United States uses about 26.6 billion MWh’s, so at the above rate we could satisfy a full one-third of our total annual energy needs. (Of course, this assumes the wind-lens_0concurrent deployment of a nationwide Smart Grid that could store and disburse the variable sources of wind power as needed using a variety of technologies — gas or coal peaking, utility scale storage via batteries or fly-wheels, etc).

Now what if a breakthrough came along that potentially tripled the energy output of those turbines?

Well, such a breakthrough has been made, and it’s called the “wind lens.”

Imagine: no more dirty coal power, no more mining deaths, no more nuclear disasters, no more polluted aquifers as a result of fracking. Society powered by the quiet “woosh” of a wind turbine. Kyushu University’s wind lens turbine is one example of the many innovations happening right now that could in the near future make this utopian vision a reality.

Read More here

Posted in Uncategorized

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