Monthly Archives: August 2013

About time!

Last week the Washington Post discovered the federal government has finally begun installation of a solar system on the White House roof.

Well, it is about time! This was actually announced way back in 2010. So what took nearly 3 years for the installation to begin?  [No, this will not become a discussion of politics (no one in the solar industry wants the business swings!). Let us all remember that George W. Bush installed a solar system in 2003; after a prior republican administration removed the solar thermal system installed back in the 1970s (see this link for a review of the history).]

This was a federal procurement that had to be competitive bid. So I get that took some time, and possibly more than one round of that, plus of course the federal bureaucracy. Yet the US military has been installing solar at bases in more than 31 states over the past several years. So they already know lots of experienced, reputable installers, with proven reliability and good system designs out there. Ok, maybe, they were waiting to confirm that global climate change is a national priority… which is what the President finally confirmed last month. Can’t be that…

Or maybe, they were just waiting for prices to come down? Which is exactly what has happened! Solar PV modules are down more than 60% verses what they cost in 2010 (from ~$2/watt to $0.75/watt of capacity). And that’s way way down from the >$75/watt in 1977 – a 99% price drop over the past 35 years! So low that the panels are no longer the primary cost element in residential scale systems. Yes, there is other hardware required, such as the wiring, racking and mounting hardware, as well as the electrical inverters, which make the AC power that we generally consume, from the DC power that is natively produced. Of course, there is the labor costs (i.e. local jobs) that will vary greatly with the type and complexity of the installation site. But there’s also the local permitting, interconnect and inspection costs that can be as high as $2500 or more for a simple residential system (and will vary greatly by municipality and utility company). According to the DOE, these and other soft costs are holding back the adoption of solar in the US. Maybe that was the White House’s problem … but I doubt it!

Well…who knows what took so long inside the government. But now, the real question: what’s holding you back from going solar? Isn’t it about time? – Jack

BTW, according to a Lawrence Berkley National Lab study released earlier this month, the US average 2012 ‘all-in’ price of the residential solar PV systems was $5.30/watt of installed capacity. That’s nearly a $1 more than what we paid for our system installed in June last year (and we paid extra for US manufactured PV modules).  So these numbers may vary greatly for you too, and these are all before federal, state, and utility incentives that can lower your actual cost even more!)