Utility-scale solar is significantly cheaper than rooftop. Does that make it better?

New studies have shown that rooftop solar energy costs significantly more than utility scale solar, but cost isn’t everything.

The cost of utility-scale solar is between $0.066 per kWh and $0.117 per kWh, while the cost for customer-owned rooftop solar is between $0.123 per kWh and $0.193 per kWh. Customer-leased rooftop solar is even more pricy, at about $0.14 per kWh and $0.237 per kWh.

However, distributed solar is growing at 74% every year. Utility scale solar is just much cheaper than rooftop. Most of the environmental and social benefits provided by these systems can be achieved at lower cost with utility-scale.

Brattle Group, the researchers that conducted the study, targeted cost data specifics from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Open PV Database. Costs were generated for different scenarios to produce these results.

The study attributes this cost gap to two major factors. One is a lower total cost per kW for installed panels at utility-scale arrays. The other is that large scale arrays generate more power due to optimized panel placement, tracking, installation efficiencies and other economies of scale that come with large facilities.

In conclusion, utility-scale solar is the best option, both cost-wise and power-wise.  They offer higher capacity factors and significant economies of sale. However, rooftop offers reliability benefits, societal and customer choice benefits, and location.  These benefits may offset the cost advantage of utility scale systems.  Both have important roles to play in the green energy industry.

Read more at UtilityDive.com

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