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Will Solar Prices Continue to Drop?

Module Pricingwww.solarbuzz.com

Retail Price Summary – Nov. 2011 Update

There is little evidence of any slowing in retail module price drops. It should be noted that retail price moves can tend to lag factory gate moves by a month or more.

The continued drop in prices is being driven by excess module supplies coming from manufacturers that are still producing more than the market can absorb. Additionally, many do not want to miss out on the anticipated year-end demand caused by the rush to beat tariff reductions at the start of next year in Europe. In the US, there is also the rush to start installation ahead of the anticipated end to the Federal Cash Grant.

Price reductions that have taken place over the past 12 months have helped stimulate new markets, but those reductions have been twined with large cuts in solar subsidies, slowing the rate of market growth. This, in fact, is the implicit contract between the public and the industry: support for this industry will yield an economically self-sustaining solar energy source. This is exactly now what is happening. It’s an example of thoroughly successful government policies around the world.

In November, there were 91 retail module price reductions and 19 increases in this survey. This is a remarkably similar ratio to the October result where there had been 86 price reductions and 18 price increases.

As a result, this month, the US index dropped a further 11¢ per watt: 3 cents driven by price drops and the balance by new lower price modules entering the survey. The European index was down 4 euro cents per watt: 3 cents were driven by price reductions and the balance by module mix changes.Lowest Retail Prices ($/Wp)

Currently, 245 solar module prices are below $2.00 per watt (€1.42 per watt) or 22.1% of the total survey. In October, there were 216 price points below $2.00 per watt (€1.48 per watt), which was 19.3% of the survey.

The lowest retail price for a multicrystalline silicon solar module is $1.31 per watt (€0.93 per watt) from a US retailer. The lowest retail price for a monocrystalline silicon module is $1.28 per watt (0.91 per watt), from an Asian retailer. Brand, technical attributes, and certifications do matter. The lowest thin film module price is at $1.25 per watt (0.89 per watt) from a Germany-based retailer. As a general rule, it is typical to expect thin film modules to be at a price discount to crystalline silicon (for like module powers). This thin film price is for a 100 watt module.

Price Index Context

The module cost is around 40% of the total  installed cost of a solar energy system. Prices are based upon the purchase of a single solar module and are exclusive of sales taxes.
Please note the retail price averages as there are manufactured costs reflected in this article as well. One thing that we want to stress to the end user in general is the large influx of modules being manufactured by lesser known companies. Research and decisions on modules should be based on several factors:

  • Quality & performance;
  • Strength and history of the company manufacturing the modules (are they going to be around for 25 years to support a warranty);
  • Where the module is manufactured;
  • Would the company use this module in their own systems and stand behind it? Quality components make for a stronger PV industry and greater consumer trust. This is the direction we want the industry to go, and hope that the influx of sub-par components doesn’t erode consumer confidence through in the field failures.

 

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