Balance of System (BoS) costs now account for more than 60 percent of the price of U.S. rooftop Pholtovoltaic (PV) Systems. BoS costs are 75 percent lower in Germany, the worldwide solar market leader. With funding support from the Department of Energy's Sunshot Initiative and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Donors, Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and RMI are partnering to explore the specific components of this cost divide between the U.S. and Germany
Simple BoS is primarily focused on identifying the theoretical minimum achievable for PV installation costs, as well as the enablers required to achieve it. We aim to: 1) identify the key drivers for the difference in average installation labor hours between the U.S. and Germany, and 2) analyze and develop hardware designs, labor-related best practices, and other changes that will help the entire industry lower its BoS costs.
RMI is looking to collaborate with U.S. and German installers in the following ways:
- Installation Survey - By collecting and aggregating detailed cost data related to steps within the PV installation process, we will identify best practices for individual installation steps. More details below.
- Time and Motion Studies - By applying lean process principles to real-time measurement and observation of installation practices, we aim to reduce waste and improve efficiencies across the PV installation value chain. More details below.
Benefits of participation include:
- A confidential and customized company-level assessment of installation productivity compared against industry benchmarks
- Access to a standard and repeatable methodology that can be used to continuously monitor, evaluate, and improve installation efficiency
- An opportunity to inform future racking designs, guide development of the PV supply chain, and inform local government rulemaking processes
If you are a solar residential rooftop installer, you can participate in this program by clicking here. If you are also interested in participating in our Time and Motion studies, please contact us directly at email@example.com.
Your company will be anonymously benchmarked against other industry participants for the level of the program you agree to participate in. We will provide you the results free of charge; the only cost is your participation.
Residential Installation Survey:
- Approach - To identify best practices in PV installation, we are requesting that installers participate in a survey on residential installation activities. RMI will aggregate and analyze the time estimates for each step within the residential installation process, accounting for system characteristics, geographic region, and company type.
- Description - The survey will take 10-12 minutes and is targeted toward individuals who are intimately familiar with the PV residential installation process.
- Benefits - Participating installers will receive a high-level summary comparing company performance with the performance of the rest of the industry. See here for an example of the summary report.
Time and Motion Studies:
- Approach - RMI and GTI have chosen to use Time and Motion studies, a business efficiency technique that is used to measure and reduce waste within a system. By directly observing and documenting the timing and physical motion of each process step, the project will identify key drivers of the installation efficiency difference between the U.S. and Germany, providing a quantitative basis to systematically reduce installation costs for individual installers and the industry as a whole.
- Description - These studies will require partner companies that will allow RMI and GTRI to visit and observe residential and commercial installations at sites in both Germany and the U.S. These on-site visits are expected to have minimal impact on actual system installations.
- Benefits - In addition to a high-level summary comparing company performance with the performance of the rest of the industry, participating installers will receive a detailed report that highlights the main drivers and opportunities for increasing installation efficiency. See here for an example of the detailed report (with examples of statistical analysis and/or visual maps).
Need more info? Visit our additional resources page
1) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: Why Are Residential PV Prices in Germany So Much Lower Than in the United States? (2012)
2) National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Benchmarking Non-Hardware Balance of System (Soft) Costs for U.S. Photovoltaic Systems Using a Data-Driven Analysis from PV Installer Survey Results (2012)
Solar Intsaller picture courtesy of Shutterstock.com.