On the Path to SunShot: The Role of Advancements in Solar Photovoltaic Efficiency, Reliability, and Costs

Michael Woodhouse, David Feldman, Ran Fu, Kelsey Horowitz, Dirk Jordan, Sarah Kurtz, Rebecca Jones-Albertus, Donald Chung

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This report examines the remaining challenges to achieving the competitive photovoltaic (PV) costs and large-scale deployment envisioned under the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative. Solar-energy cost reductions can be realized through lower PV module and balance-of-system (BOS) costs as well as improved system efficiency and reliability. Numerous combinations of PV improvements could help achieve the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) goals because of the tradeoffs among key metrics like module price, efficiency, and degradation rate as well as system price and lifetime. Using LCOE modeling based on bottom-up cost analysis, two specific pathways are mapped to exemplify the many possible approaches to module cost reductions of 29%-38% between 2015 and 2020. BOS hardware and soft cost reductions, ranging from 54%-77% of total cost reductions, are also modeled. The residential sector's high supply-chain costs, labor requirements, and customer-acquisition costs give it the greatest BOS cost-reduction opportunities, followed by the commercial sector, although opportunities are available to the utility-scale sector as well. Finally, a future scenario is considered in which very high PV penetration requires additional costs to facilitate grid integration and increased power-system flexibility--which might necessitate even lower solar LCOEs. The analysis of a pathway to 3-5 cents/kWh PV systems underscores the importance of combining robust improvements in PV module and BOS costs as well as PV system efficiency and reliability if such aggressive long-term targets are to be achieved.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages44
StatePublished - 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-65872


  • balance-of-system
  • BOS
  • cadmium telluride
  • CdTe
  • cost
  • degradation
  • efficiency
  • hardware
  • lifetime
  • module
  • photovoltaic
  • price
  • PV
  • reliability
  • silicon
  • soft costs
  • solar
  • SunShot
  • thin film


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