National residential home solar power prices continued their drop over the last year by an average of at least 3.3% from the year before. The industry has worked hard to pull costs out of a solar installation as they tackle equipment and soft cost (installation, permitting, marketing) efficiencies, making solar more affordable than ever for many Americans.
As the US solar industry grows, prices have fallen virtually across the board for the various customer sectors and regions. This is great news for solar shoppers and for the country as a whole. Like many high technology industries, as a product gets more mature companies get better at building and delivering the product to consumers. We have seen the fall in prices in computers, televisions, mobile devices, telecoms, automobiles, even air travel. Either the product has become outright less expensive to purchase, or the functionality and performance have been dramatically increased while maintaining a rough cost parity or decrease.
Vice President Joe Biden yesterday helped release a report (PDF) describing how the Recovery Act has bolstered the economy -- and specifically highlighting its effect on innovation in key sectors like transportation, healthcare, and, yes, renewable energy. The report boasts 50 pages of data and analysis, but it lacks the kind of compelling headlines that might really restore public confidence in the Recovery Act's impact.
Here's an exciting press release for your reading pleasure.
Researchers at the government-funded Environmental Energies Technology Division at Berkeley have released a study (PDF) that shows a significant delcine in the actual cost of solar installations over the past decade. The cost of solar seems to have declined by about $3/watt between 1998 and 2007, though this average is gleaned from systems both small and large, which have very different needs and costs. The San Francisco Chronicle highlights the study's findings that the cost of solar has yet to equalize across states. The per-watt price for solar still differs by as much as $2/watt or more depending on the state in which you live.