In the recent past, while a significant amount of discussions for US solar power have been on the residential and commercial rooftop solar growth, the real force for solar growth in the US in terms of quantum has been the utility-scale solar power plants. This post discusses the installation cost of utility scale solar power plant in the US.

What are utility scale solar power plants?

Utility scale solar refers to large-scale solar power plants, typically starting with 1 MW and going all the way to even 1000 MW. These are usually ground mounted solar power plants that export all the power generated to the grid.

Such MW solar power plants could be constructed as just solo power plants of relatively small sizes (1-5 MW) or as part of large solar farms (100+MW each).

While almost all these MW-scale, ground mounted solar power plants export the power generated to the grid, the ultimate buyer of the power could either be the utility (a government-owned electricity board), a third party private company, or in certain cases the buyer could be the owner of the power plant itself, in which case it is termed as captive solar power plant.

Both governments and commercial investors worldwide are finding utility scale solar power plants to be attractive.

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Components of a utility scale, grid connected solar power plant

Utility scale solar power plant installations comprise the following components:

  • Solar panels
  • Inverters
  • Mounting structures
  • Balance of systems (cables, junction boxes etc.)
  • Installation costs
As of 2015, the overall cost for a utility scale solar power plant in the US is in the range $1.5-$1.7 per W. This means that a 1 MW rooftop solar power system will cost you $1.5-1.7 million.

The following is the installation cost breakup for utility scale solar power plants in the US, as of 2015

Component Cost – US cents per W % of total
Solar Panels 70 47%
Inverters and other BoS 45 30%
Installation Costs, including permits & approvals 35 23%
Total 150 100%

Installation Cost of Utility Scale Solar Power Plant – Sources & Reference

Cost of utility scale solar power plant

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