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Making solar technology more affordable

Technologies that help preserve the environment do not just benefit the United States, they benefit the world at large. So it is important that nations learn from one another's experience when it comes to developing alternative energy technologies and how best to manage their use.

For example, a recent study published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory highlights some of the main reasons why solar power systems cost more in the United States than they do in Germany. According to the research, residential solar system installers in the U.S. and Germany spent just over $1.80 per watt. However, German installers only added $1.20 to the cost of the solar panels for a complete installation. U.S. installers added $4.36.

Among the reasons cited for this disparity are sales tax exemptions for German installers, the cost of permitting and connecting to power grids, and the fact that because solar is much more widely used in Germany, they only spend roughly seven cents per watt of installed capacity on marketing and similar initiatives. Meanwhile, in the U.S. we spend about 70 cents per watt.

As an article for technology and media blog Mashable points out, the study does not account for 100 percent of the cost disparity between the two nations. However, Germany's success with solar power should be a beacon for us to follow.

In the meantime, while companies try to find ways of reducing the "soft" costs like marketing to convince consumers of the benefits alternative energy technologies bring to the table, we must continue to invest in new manufacturing processes that reduce "hard" costs.

"The biggest lever for reducing solar costs remains reducing the number of solar panels needed per installation, which in turn reduces labor costs." the article said.

As we continue to develop new solar module soldering techniques that can help to streamline the installation process, solar power will become more affordable and in line with coal and fossil fuel system costs.

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