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Listen Up: NREL Reports on the Costs of Rooftop Solar

Costs are consistently the hottest topic of discussions in the solar industry. We all want to reduce solar costs, but we also have a tendency to focus on our own component or value chain costs. Unfortunately, lowering individual component costs does not always lead to a reduction in total system costs.

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For example, even though high efficiency solar panels are more expensive, they can lead to even greater savings by reducing the area-dependent costs (like racking and installation labor). Solar panels with integrated racking, although more expensive from a mounting component standpoint, can lead to even greater installation labor savings. So if you're a homeowner, you really care most about the total installed cost -- not the cost of individual components like solar panels or inverters.

To date, many of these cost observations have been anecdotal, localized or based on small sample size analyses. To add some scientific rigor to this topic, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently completed a study entitled "Non-Hardware ('Soft') Cost Reduction Roadmap for Residential and Commercial Solar." I fondly refer to this report as "Ways To Make Rooftop Solar Cheaper."

So listen to this week's Energy Show on Renewable Energy World for an overview of the cost reductions and innovations necessary to reduce total installed costs down to the DOE SunShot's goals. We can and will get to these goals, but only if we start reducing labor and overhead costs faster than hardware costs.

Find more episodes of The Energy Show here.

About The Energy Show

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don't have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we'll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices. 

About Your Host

Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.

His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.

Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies.  He's been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Lead image: Green microphone via Shutterstock

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