Tracking the Sun

Berkeley Lab’s Tracking the Sun report summarizes installed prices and other trends among grid-connected, distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States. This report is now being published on a biannual cycle. In 2020, Berkeley Lab has released a more limited Distributed Solar 2020 Data Update, which consists of the same data otherwise published in Tracking the Sun report. The update includes data on more than 1.9 million systems installed through 2019, covering 82% of all distributed PV systems installed nationally through that timeframe.

As in prior years, the data update focuses to a large degree on installed prices reported for distributed PV projects, describing both historical trends and variability in pricing across projects.

  • With respect to the historical price trajectory, national median installed prices fell, from 2018 to 2019, by roughly 1% for residential systems, remained essentially flat for small non-residential systems, and fell by 4% for large non-residential systems. Across all three customer segments, these are the slowest annual percentage declines since 2006-2008.
  • Pricing continues to vary widely across individual projects, reflecting, among other things, differences in system sizing and design, installer-level pricing strategies, and local market conditions. For example, among residential systems installed in 2019, the lowest 20% were priced below $3.1/W, while the highest 20% were above $4.5/W. The distributions for non-residential systems exhibit similarly wide spreads.

In addition to data on installed prices, the data update also covers a broad range of trends related to distributed PV system design, including: system sizing, module efficiency, module-level power electronics, inverter-loading ratios, solar+storage installations, mounting configuration, panel orientation, third-party ownership, and customer segmentation.

The data update consists of four elements, all accessible below: a public dataset, interactive data visualizations, a graphical slide-deck summary, and a summary data file containing the figures from the slide-deck and associated data tables. For reference, last year’s edition of the full Tracking the Sun report is available here.

We want to hear from you. If you have specific questions about the report or data or requests for related analytical support from LBNL staff, you can submit those comments through a separate form here, and they will be routed to the appropriate staff.

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