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Solar Market Research and Analysis Projects

Solar market research and analysis efforts at NREL seek to further solar technologies' role in supporting a more efficient and better performing U.S. electricity system. Learn more about several of these projects below.

Advanced Hosting Capacity Analysis

NREL offers advanced hosting capacity analysis to better understand how new distributed photovoltaic systems can impact the electrical distribution system. This research helps stakeholders like utilities, policymakers, and solar developers realize the costs associated with integrating new distributed photovoltaic systems at different penetration levels.

Flexible Financial Credit Agreements for Solar Adoption

NREL envisions a future where solar financing products are flexible, transferable, affordable and available to everyone regardless of income or credit history.

Midscale Commercial Market Solar Analysis

NREL experts are providing analysis to expand the midscale solar market for solar photovoltaics (PV). Loosely defined as behind-the-meter systems between 100 kilowatts and 2 megawatts, the midscale market has grown more slowly than other PV market segments in recent years.

Learn more about NREL's midscale solar market research, which includes an online inventory of state-by-state policies for midsized solar projects to help prospective solar customers understand and use the policies of their state.

Municipal Franchise Agreements

Municipal franchise agreements are becoming a popular method for cities to achieve energy goals. By incorporating energy objectives into franchise agreements with electric service providers or using these agreements as a negotiation tool with the utility, municipalities are pursuing clean energy.

PV Operations and Maintenance Best Practices

This project aims to increase the effectiveness and reduce the variability and cost of PV operations and maintenance (O&M) through data-driven decision tools and standards. The financial performance of PV systems depends on performance periods up to 25 years. Over extended periods, impaired PV performance and high O&M costs can significantly drive up the cost of electricity for PV systems.

To help reduce PV O&M costs and improve PV performance, this project collects and makes available actuarial data, offers PV O&M analytical tools, and publishes best practices for PV O&M.

Photovoltaic Stormwater Management Research and Testing

The Photovoltaic Stormwater Management Research and Testing project is developing and disseminating research-based, PV-specific tools and best practices for stormwater management and water quality at ground-mounted PV sites.

Solar Data and Tools: Data Partnerships, SAM, URDB

NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy have created many tools and datasets over the years to help analyze and model solar energy technologies. As the industries supporting these resources develop, this project will continue to update and adjust these resources, so they remain relevant.

To understand data user needs, industry working groups are consulted. As part of this project, NREL is actively working to develop Data Ambassadors and is working to develop the energy data ecosystem across the country, build new businesses, and get more federally-funded data into the hands of developers. This project also maintains the Utility Rate Database (URDB) with the goal of tracking rate structures for at least 70% of utilities in the United States. To improve this database, the project team has been piloting machine readable options for collecting utility rate data. The project has also successfully created a new System Advisor Model (SAM) software development toolkit that better enables users to integrate SAM into their own code and products.

Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies

The Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) are a series of industry-wide studies that use data-driven and evidence-based methods to identify characteristics, motivations, and barriers to PV adoption.

Learn more about SEEDS studies and webinars.

Solar-Plus-Storage: Reducing Barriers Through Cost-Optimization and Market Characterization

While falling costs have spurred interest in solar-plus-storage systems, investors and commercial customers remain uncertain about the technology due to a limited understanding of the factors that influence the economics of these systems.

This project is developing unique modeling tools to explore the critical economic variables behind the deployment of commercial-scale solar-plus-storage systems. To further help inform potential customers and investors, the project is identifying potential markets for solar-plus-storage and working to understand the value of solar-plus-storage systems to the resilience of the electric system.

Highlighted Publications

Identifying Critical Factors in the Cost-Effectiveness of Solar and Battery Storage in Commercial Buildings

Valuing the Resilience Provided by Solar and Battery Energy Storage Systems

Solar Technology Cost Analysis

Benchmarking costs and estimating the value of improvements in solar technology and system installation enable the tracking of trends and developments over time. This project is implementing a standardized approach to develop a series of benchmarks over time for identified focus areas and developing analyses of new topical areas, as needed.

Using a rigorous, bottom-up cost and price modeling analysis approach, the project tracks: regular benchmarks for technology and system installation costs; the potential commercial impact of technology and system installation improvements; and production costs and other factors affecting the competitive position of nations within the global solar industry.