Nov 7, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Solar power systems are getting bigger, better over time

Reproduced from Barbose, et. al, 2019, "Tracking the Sun"; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from Barbose, et. al, 2019, "Tracking the Sun"; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new Energy Department report lays out how solar PV systems are getting bigger and better over time.

Why it matters: The Tracking the Sun report underscores how an important part of solar's growth and evolution isn't just the increasing number of systems, but also their design and scale.

What they did: The annual Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analysis explores distributed systems — the stuff installed at homes and businesses, as opposed to centralized utility-scale projects.

Where it stands: One conclusion is that system sizes have been growing and getting more efficient. In the residential sector, the median system has nearly tripled this century to 6.4 kilowatts as of last year.

  • "Those trends partly reflect increasing module efficiencies, as many residential systems are space-constrained based on available roof area," they note.

In the commercial and industrial space, the median system went from 7 kilowatts in 2000 to 47 kilowatts in 2018.

  • Larger systems have become more common as "a broader set of non-residential customers become comfortable with the technology and as developers and investors seek out projects offering higher returns."

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