The S-Curve Indicator: Week of January 7, 2013

This week’s indicator is $3.19, which is the per Watt cost differential between residential solar panel installation in the U.S. and Germany. According to the study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the reasons for the gap are varied, but the added cost to customers is undeniable. The differential adds around $16,000 in additional costs for a typically-sized 5kW residential system.

Among many factors, the LBNL study highlights the scale of the German solar market (3x larger than the U.S.), customer acquisition costs (10x higher in the U.S.), and costs associated with grid connection (7x higher in the U.S.). This study demonstrates that driving down the cost of hardware is only one piece of the puzzle in making solar more accessible. Partnerships with retailers (such as the SolarCity/BestBuy collaboration) and utilities can drive down these “soft” costs.

This is an entry in our series, The S-Curve Indicator, where we highlight a number that’s impacting the world of sustainability.