Energy policy matters, a lot. The Germans have a comprehensive feed-in tariff, providing CLEAN contracts to anyone who wants to go solar (or wind, or biogas, etc). The U.S. has a hodge-podge of utility, state and federal tax-based incentives. What does that mean?
Much cheaper German solar. In fact, it’s like having your favorite craft or microbrew beer at a price that beats Budweiser. From a study of U.S. solar prices reported in Renewables International:
Perhaps most surprisingly, the study found that the planned arrays larger than one megawatt have an average installed price of $4.50 per watt, with only a third of the systems in the pipeline coming in at prices below four dollars per watt. As Renewables International reported in January, the installed system price of photovoltaics in the US was easily 60 percent above the level in Germany in 2010 for equivalent system sizes (arrays smaller than 100 kilowatts).
Here’s a chart illustrating that cost differential, with the German prices updated for the 2nd quarter of 2011.
If the German solar prices are wunderbar, that makes the U.S. “furchtbar.”