Two Numbers: Solar Energy’s Price Drop, Ahead of Schedule, Could Help Save the Planet
Earlier this month, the White House announced the launch of a series of measures intended to make solar power more accessible to low- and middle-income households. Brian Deese, senior adviser to President Barack Obama on climate, said the administration aims to “deploy low-cost solar energy in every community in the country.”
Ten or 15 years ago, that would have been unthinkable, because solar was too expensive. But the price in the U.S. has dropped precipitously in recent years. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, the cost of installing solar panels on the average home has plummeted 70 percent since 1998, from nearly $86,000 for a 5-kilowatt installation (the average residential solar array) to just $26,000 in 2014.
That translates to a massive drop in per-month energy costs. In 1977, the average global price of generating electricity from sunshine was $76.67 a watt. Now, 38 years later, it’s just 60 cents watt. That compares pretty favorably with the average retail price of electricity in the U.S., which is $1.26 a watt, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.