Nationwide Analysis of U.S. Commercial Building Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Breakeven Conditions

Carolyn Davidson, Paul Denholm, Robert Margolis, Pieter Gagnon

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The commercial sector offers strong potential for solar photovoltaics (PV) owing to abundant available roof space suitable for PV and the opportunity to offset the sector's substantial retail electricity purchases. This report evaluated the breakeven price of PV for 15 different building types and various financing options by calculating electricity savings based on detailed rate structures for most U.S. utility territories (representing approximately two thirds of U.S. commercial customers). We find that at current capital costs, an estimated 1/3 of U.S. commercial customers break even in the cash scenario and approximately 2/3 break even in the loan scenario. Variation in retail rates is a stronger driver of breakeven prices than is variation in building load or solar generation profiles. At the building level, variation in the average breakeven price is largely driven by the ability for a PV system to reduce demand charges.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages38
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-64793


  • breakeven
  • commercial buildings
  • commercial solar PV
  • costs
  • economics
  • LCOE
  • loans
  • photovoltaic
  • rates
  • solar value


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