Photovoltaic Investment Risk and Uncertainty for Residential Customers

Easan Drury, Thomas Jenkin, Dirk Jordan, Robert Margolis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus Citations


The revenues generated by rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems have several sources of uncertainty. We use a Monte Carlo framework to explore the sensitivity of PV investment returns to three categories of PV investment uncertainty: 1) interannual solar variability, 2) PV technical performance and maintenance costs, and 3) market risks including future electricity rates and the possibility that retail electricity rates will be restructured for PV customers. We find that PV investment risk and uncertainty is driven by market factors in some U.S. regions (California and Massachusetts) and by the PV technical performance in other U.S. regions (Missouri and Florida). We explore the relative impacts of three methods for reducing PV investment uncertainty: research-and-development-driven performance improvements, system performance guarantees that are common for third-party owned systems, and long-term power purchase contracts. We find that the effectiveness of each risk reduction option varies by region, depending on which factors drive regional PV investment uncertainty.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number6607193
Pages (from-to)278-284
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Journal of Photovoltaics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-59041


  • Investment risk
  • rooftop photovoltaics
  • third-party ownership


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