The Falling Cost of US Solar Installations

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With all the ups and down in the energy business, it is sometimes difficult to see the forest through the trees. Solar module costs -- the actual energy conversion hardware -- have been falling for the past several decades and the past couple of years have seen sharp declines.

But there are a lot of other components in the cost of a solar installation. What you see above is a chart of all the solar installations since 2006 tracked by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for which cost information is available. What we see are substantial cost drops in the total installed cost of solar. In the last six months of 2006, the average project paid $8.58 per watt. In the last six months of 2011, the average project paid $5.91. Not bad.

All the data is available here.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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