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Charting a Pathway to Cheaper Solar

Non-hardware (soft) costs have become a major driver of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices, accounting for more than 50 percent of total installed residential costs and over 40 percent of commercial costs.

Rocky Mountain Institute and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are working together to outline the necessary cost reductions and innovations to achieve U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative’s PV price targets.

This report, "Non-Hardware “Soft” Cost-Reduction Roadmap for Residential and Small Commercial Solar Photovoltaics, 2013-2020," charts a pathway to achieve SunShot targets of installed system prices of $1.50/watt (W) for residential systems and $1.25/W for commercial systems by 2020.

Soft Cost Working Group - Installation Labor

On October 21st 2013, RMI and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory convened a forum with a broad group of industry stakeholders to explore different working groups, concepts, and other solutions with the potential to drive down soft costs. At the forum, RMI led a team of industry professionals to specifically explore the installation labor component of rooftop solar PV soft costs.

During the forum, four primary potential concepts were conceived with the potential to help reduce installation labor-specific costs:

  • Creation of an Integrator Process Standards Body for Residential and Commercial PV Systems
  • Launch of a business to business “WikiSolar” platform
  • Creation of a National Solar Database
  • Launch of a national “Solar Ready” standards campaign

Further detail on these concepts and the rest of the installation labor sub group of the soft cost impact forum can be found here.

RMI, in partnership with industry, will be facilitating the launch of one or several of these concepts in the next several months pending industry participation and further feedback.

Additional Information

RMI has published several blogs on soft costs over the past year with additional information on solar PV soft costs for interested parties, available below. We’ve also included links to analyses from other organizations focused on soft cost reduction efforts and research.

In addition, RMI, in partnership with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, has released a preliminary version of our report summarizing the first phase of time and motion data analysis under our Simple BoS (Link to: /simple) project, available here.