New Initiative Will Explore Cost Divide Between Solar Soft Costs In U.S. Vs. Germany


Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have launched a partnership in order to explore the cost divide between the prices of residential solar PV systems in Germany vs. the U.S.

Balance-of-system costs (i.e., soft costs) now account for more than 60% of the price of U.S. rooftop PV systems, while such costs are 75% lower in Germany, according to RMI and GTRI. In most areas of the U.S., solar PV remains an expensive energy option, even though module costs have decreased significantly.

For the initiative, dubbed ‘the Simple BoS project,’ RMI and GTRI will partner with solar installers across the two countries to explore specific components of the cost divide between solar installation processes in the U.S. and Germany. Using survey data and time-and-motion studies, the project will measure the status quo in both countries, analyze key differences and then propose solutions to improve the installation process in the U.S. and beyond.

"Despite the U.S.' failure to lower soft costs to date, others – notably Germany – show it can be done," explains Jon Creyts, program director at RMI." Identifying the key drivers of price differences between the two markets will help us understand how U.S. installers can dramatically lower these costs and drive the industry into the future."

The Simple BoS project will employ Lean and Six Sigma process strategies to analyze and reduce overall system variability and provide an opportunity to inform future system designs, guide supply chain development and inform local government rule-making processes, RMI and GTRI explain.

The project will look at several key factors in the solar installation process, including the labor hours of PV installation, the impact of local government involvement and permitting regulations on installation time and pricing, and the difference in time-to-system activation in both the U.S. and Germany.

"This is a great opportunity for installers, because they will receive a customized company-level assessment of installation productivity compared against industry benchmarks," notes Jesse Morris, a consultant with RMI's electricity practice.

RMI is actively recruiting installers to participate. More information is available here.

Data collection has begun in the U.S. and will continue through the summer. RMI is expected to release a report documenting the findings by the end of this year.

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