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Will solar power’s future cost reductions come from cheaper solar technologies, or from lower costs for everything else involved in putting them to use in the real world? Increasingly, the industry is looking to squeeze more costs out of solar balance of system (BOS) costs. Those include everything from the wires and inverters that connect them to the grid and the racks and screws that attach them to rooftops or ground-mount systems to the manufacturing, transportation, installation and permitting costs involved in getting them set up. The Rocky Mountain Institute has been studying how to reduce BOS costs since June, and has come up with a host of suggestions it says could reduce balance of system costs to $0.60 – $0.90 per watt, or up to 65 percent less that today’s costs. A lot of that has to do with better manufacturing and business practices — making solar manufacturing leaner and meaner, so to speak. Then there are regulatory issues to deal with — solar leasing and installation company SunRun has done a study finding that streamlining solar permitting processes from city to city could shave 50 cents per watt from solar systems’ total cost. The Department of Energy’s SunShot program is also looking to BOS improvements to help drop the total install cost of solar power to $1 per watt without subsidies by the end of the decade.

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