Characteristics of Low-Priced Solar PV Systems in the U.S.

Eric OShaughnessy, Gregory Nemet, Ryan Wiser, Naim Darghouth, Galen Barbose, Ken Gillingham, Varun Rai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus Citations


Despite impressive declines in average prices, there is wide dispersion in the prices of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) systems; prices span more than a factor of four. What are the characteristics of the systems with low-prices? Using detailed characteristics of 42,611 small-scale (<15 kW) PV systems installed in 15 U.S. states during 2013, we identify the most important factors that make a system likely to be low-priced (LP). Comparing LP and non-LP systems, we find statistically significant differences in nearly all characteristics for which we have data. Logit and probit model results robustly indicate that LP systems are associated with: markets with few active installers; experienced installers; customer ownership; large systems; retrofits; and thin-film, low-efficiency, and Chinese modules. We also find significant differences across states, with LP systems much more likely to occur in some states, such as Arizona, New Jersey, and New Mexico, and less likely in others, such as California. Our focus on the left tail of the price distribution provides implications for policy that are distinct from recent studies of mean prices. While those studies find that PV subsidies increase mean prices, we find that subsidies also generate LP systems. PV subsidies appear to simultaneously shift and broaden the price distribution. Much of this broadening occurs in a particular location, northern California.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)501-513
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-67631


  • price dispersion
  • PV
  • solar
  • subsidies
  • technological change


Dive into the research topics of 'Characteristics of Low-Priced Solar PV Systems in the U.S.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this