Photovoltaic Plants: Higher Soft-Costs in the USA

Why are photovoltaic installations more expensive in the USA than in Germany? This was the question posed in a recent study by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. Results show that while module costs are nearly equal, the significant price difference between the two countries comes through higher installation and soft-costs present in the USA. Germans pay approximately $1.20/installed watt, whereas their American counterparts pay much more, to the tune of $4.36/installed watt. That is more than three times as much.

Solar PV projectsThis cost difference cannot be ascribed solely to the maturity of the German market. According to LBNL, more than half of the additional costs are due to other factors. For example, marketing costs, while 7cents/watt in Germany, are ten times as much in the US; a whopping 70cents/watt. Permitting and interconnection fees also represent major cost hurdles for Americans, coming in at 20cents as opposed to 3cents in Germany.

The results of this LNBL study place equal importance on labor intensive permitting processes and higher taxes for the permits themselves. Higher labor costs, which entail higher sales-tax and administration fees, are also price drivers.

Inverters cost more in the USA than Germany. Nevertheless, after accounting for this increased hard-cost there is still a $1.30/watt price differential between the two markets. One speculation is that American solar firms demand higher profit margins.

The US Dept. of Energy is aware of this problem, and they partly answer it via the SunShot Initiative, a US Dept. of Commerce program with the objective of reducing these expenditures. A $10 million prize is promised to the first company to bring these costs under $1/watt, and a further $12 million is available for the easing of various specific soft costs. In December, an additional $21 million will be made available for the development of “Plug-and-Play” systems.


Solar Energy in Latin America: Chile on the move

Latin America and the Caribbean represent two key regions for the further growth of renewable energies. Over the last year we have seen over 100MW installed between these two regions. This year predictions lie in the 450MW range. A project pipeline with a capacity of over 8GW, through utility scale projects alone, was announced last year, and more than 6 of those GW are in Chile. According to GTM research, by 2017 we could be seeing yearly installation numbers above 5.7GW.

Milk the Sun berichtet über den Photovoltaik-Markt in Lateinamerika©Fernando Alonso Herrero

Despite the high number of project announcements, to date only a few grid-tied projects have been completed. The industry’s focus is still primarily on behind-the-meter projects. However, developers and manufacturers alike are seeing the opportunity to establish themselves as pioneers in these high-growth markets. The few solar companies with LATAM branches will likely see competition in the near future from other established energy-sector players, many of whom are stepping up their involved in the PV market. Key take-away from early market entrants: A local connection often plays a far greater role than deeper experience in solar development.


CeBIT 2013: Milk the Sun to present its Photovoltaic Marketplace

When CeBIT opens its gates on the 5th of March in Hannover this year, Milk the Sun will be there. The Berlin based company will present its online marketplace for photovoltaic installations and projects at the Hannover exhibition grounds to countless visitors and conference participants on the joint stand D30 in Hall 16.


At this year’s CeBIT, the largest conference for information technology world-wide, over 300.000 visitors are expected. CeBIT presents Milk the Sun with an excellent opportunity to showcase its advantages to the PV community. CEO Felix Krause notes, “At CeBIT we can demonstrate to an international community of industry professionals how our platform allows us to drastically reduce the transaction costs for PV plants and projects.”


In addition to CeBIT, Milk the Sun will also be present at this year’s Intersolar convention in June (Stand number B2 170 N).

Solarpraxis and Milk the Sun develop a calculating tool for existing installations

For the first time a freely accessible online calculator determines the current sales value, which can be aimed at by owners when selling a photovoltaic installation. This free of charge calculator is applicable in countries all over the world, and it accounts for various parameters such as age of the installation, the time of connection to the electricity grid and the share of electricity used for owner’s own purposes. It shows the sales price for the aimed selling point and the yield, which the buyer can reach with the photovoltaic installation. Two Berlin-based companies, Milk the Sun and Solarpraxis, have jointly developed the calculator.

“If one wants to resell an installation after a couple of years, it is often problematic to obtain a reliable sales value” explains Felix Krause, the CEO of Milk the Sun. “Many factors determine the achievable level of sales price. Next to the amount of feed-in-tariff, operation costs and power dissipation of an installation, an important role is played by tax deductions, financing costs and the current inflation rate.” These and further factors are included by the online calculator in the determination of sales value and yield. With the help of this tool, a potential seller can run simulations on how the price of the installation varies according to the time when it would be sold or other factors.

“The calculating tool offers a first objective reference point about the sales value of solar installation to both sellers and buyers. It is especially interesting for bigger photovoltaic installations” says Alexander Woitas, manager of the engineering department at Solarpraxis AG. The calculation formula is based on commercial calculations and technical experiences of Solarpraxis. “Subsequently the precise sales values should be determined individually. An encompassing technical installation testing is necessary for establishing the exact sales price.” On the online calculator portal, an owner of a PV system can request a free of charge offer for solar installations testing. Additionally, there is a possibility to present a solar installation for sale on the portal.

The online calculator is available the hree languages German, English and Italian.



Calculator pv value price system Milk the SUn

About Solarpraxis AG

The Berlin-based Solarpraxis was founded in 1998 by Engineer Karl-Heinz Remmers and Kay Neubert as BGB Company. Since 2006 Solarpraxis AG is traded on the stock exchange. As one of the leading advisory and service companies in the renewable energy sector, the company employs over 50 engineers, architects, publishing experts and event managers in the fields of engineering, publishing and conferences.

70 Percent of Europeans Would Back Renewable Energy

A recent survey by the European Commission titled “Attitudes of Europeans towards air quality” has found that seven out of ten Europeans prefer renewable energy over traditional alternatives. Less than ten percent of those surveyed expressed a preference for fossil fuels. However, 18% of Europeans still maintain that nuclear should be considered a priority energy source.

Gain acceptance in the world: Solar solutions©Steve Jacobs

Renewable energies: Trailing behind, Romania and Bulgaria

The results by country show that acceptance and awareness of renewable energies like photovoltaic or wind power is highest in Portugal at 82%, followed closely by Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Spain (each 81%). A few have much lower regard for renewables, notably Romania (49%) and Bulgaria (45%), where less than half the survey participants recommended renewables as a priority. The Europe-wide average lies at 70%.

A center of interest which is drawing more and more attention is energy efficiency. The Europe-wide average for agreement that energy efficiency should receive a priority focus is at 28%. Here, Slovakia is the leader with 44%, and trailing the pack is Cyprus with only 18%.

Support for nuclear energy Europe-wide at 18%

Nuclear energy is supported above all by the Czech Republic. 44% of Czechs surveyed believe nuclear to be an energy source worth supporting, followed by Sweden with 33%. In Germany nuclear gained an approval rate of only 8%, with the lowest endorsements coming from Austria and Cyprus at 4% each. The overall European average is 18%.

Also of interest is that 33% of Poles name shale-gas as a priority. Estimations place Poland over the largest shale-gas reserves in Europe, and Poland is interested in stepping up extraction via the fiercely debated fracking technique. In all other European countries approval of this means of energy production lies under 11%, Italy, Sweden and Finland being the most opposed at 3%.

Conventional fossil fuel energy providers seem to no longer have a place within the European energy mindset. A union-wide approval average of 8%, with a maximum of 19% in Lithuania, demonstrates that not even one in ten Europeans would name conventional energy production as a priority. Especially low is the support from Sweden, Slovenia, Italy and Poland (4% each).

Men support nuclear energy more than women do

Socio-demographic analyses of the survey show that men are more likely to prefer nuclear power than women (23% vs. 13%). Among participants over 55, energy efficiency (24%) and renewable energies ( 65%) also find fewer supporters.

Education also plays a large role. Only 59% of those polled who ended their education at 15 or earlier indicate renewable energies as a focus, as opposed to 75% of those educated until age 20.

Sources: Europäische Kommission (Attitudes of Europeans towards air quality report)


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