Community energy is set for an impressive year. With more than 180 projects registered in 2013, many of these are now coming to fruition. Most of these are solar, so a key component for these schemes is obviously how much they should pay for their renewables kit.
So: how much does a PV system cost as of January 2015?
First up it’s important to note that the big, field scale stuff is a truckload cheaper per unit than home-top solar, as you’d expect. So below I’ll take a look at different prices of variously sized systems: from solar farms to residential and hopefully provide some enlightenment.
Fields and multi-megawatt
Recent developments mean that community energy is able to get involved with the big boys. New rules around field-scale PV mean community groups can partner with a commercial developer on a single site – see here
To help gauge the going rate for this size of system, the Solar Trade Association recently came out with an interesting analysis. Based on a survey of their members, the STA found that, for a 10MW system, the average price paid for panels was £450,000 (45p per watt – see p 18 of this pdf link). The rest of the install (called ‘balance of system’ in industry parlance – inverters, frames, labour etc) came in at £384,000. So that’s a total of £834 per kWp to get the kit installed.
Bear in mind that’s an average of the STA’s membership. At last May’s EcoTechnology Show in Brighton, Tim Rose from SolarCentury mentioned they were installing at £840 per kilowatt – and module prices have fallen almost 10% since then.
It’s also worth noting that, according to the STA, developers took on average an £89k fee for that 10MWp system, or 8.6% of the total project cost. Not bad work if you can get it. See the above link for details.
Most of us in the community energy sphere, however, don’t have the big bucks to get these huge projects off the ground. So what about at a more modest scale?
Here we can look to DECC, who recently launched the much-trailed Urban Community Energy Fund. As part of the application pack, they said: “We would expect a solar PV project applying to UCEF to be aiming for more than 75kW of total installed solar capacity, representing at current prices (Nov 2014) an installation cost in the region of £85k”. That’s £1,133 per kwp installed.
While here at BEC our experience is that that’s a bit high, anecdotal evidence is supportive. For example the Low Carbon Hub recently successfully completed a a share raise for £1.5m, with an installed cost of £1,122 per kwp. See their share invitation for details.
If you’re thinking about solar for your house, however, there’s little in the way of reports about the costs. A quick google for “4kw solar system cost” shows that prices can go as low as £5000 for 4kwp, or £1250 per kw. No doubt some would complain that these are cheap and cheerful offers, and not quality. That may or may not be true, but the above figures do provide a floor for the market price.
So prices vary. Yet whether you’re big or small one thing remains true: prices are falling. PV prices fell up to 15% in 2014; that translates to a roughly 7% drop in install prices across the year. With things in such flux, there’s no surprise that there’s plenty of opportunity out there, but here at Brighton Energy Coop we’re still hearing of people paying vastly over the odds. Hopefully this post will help.