More Affordable Solar Power

The cost of solar systems has never been lower — now is the right time to consider solar power for your home.


| August/September 2012



Solar-House-With-White-Fence

Switching from fossil fuels to solar energy is good for the environment. With the falling price of solar panels, it can save you money, too.


PHOTO: ROB CARDILLO

If you’ve ever considered installing a home solar electric system and generating your electricity with free, renewable energy, now’s a great time to look at your options. In recent years, prices for solar systems have plummeted thanks to increased demand, mass production and intense competition among manufacturers. Generous government financial incentives for solar power have reduced the cost for homeowners even further, making a home solar electric system more affordable than it’s ever been.

Because the source of energy — sunlight — is free, the cost of solar power equates to the cost of your solar electric system spread over the lifetime of the system you buy — easily 30 years or more. As a rule, solar incentives for homeowners reduce the system cost by 30 to 50 percent. Incentives for businesses can lower the cost by 50 to 75 percent! However, even without incentives, the lifetime cost of solar electricity is now frequently cost-competitive with the cost of electricity from your local utility. In some places with relatively high costs for utility electricity unsubsidized solar is already cheaper than utility rates.

When purchasing a solar electric system, most people choose to contact a solar installer, who can help them decide which type of system they need. To find a solar installer, check local listings or use the Find Solar Directory to search for local options within a national directory. Another option is to plan and install your own solar electric system. For more on this approach read Choose DIY to Save Big on Solar Panels For Your Home!. In either case, before you get started you’ll want to learn a few of the basics about how solar electric systems work and what decisions you’ll need to make when choosing a system.

How Solar Power Works

As the name implies, solar electric — or photovoltaic (PV) — systems convert sunlight energy to electricity. This transformation occurs in solar modules, typically referred to as panels. Each module consists of numerous solar cells, which are usually made of silicon. They produce electricity when incoming solar radiation knocks electrons from the silicon atoms out of their orbits around their nuclei. These electrons flow to the surface of the cell where they are drawn off by tiny silver contacts.

In solar electric systems, numerous modules are wired together in series to provide the electricity for our homes. These modules are usually attached to an aluminum rack, which can be mounted onto your roof or a foundation set in the ground next to your house. The modules and the rack system constitute a solar array.

The electricity produced by a solar array is direct current (DC) electricity. A device known as an inverter converts the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity, the type of power used in U.S. households. The inverter feeds electricity into the breaker box or main panel, where it is distributed throughout a home.

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ga
5/28/2015 9:42:37 AM

MAJOR UPDATE on PAYOFF of Solar Energy Systems! http://blog.renewableenergyworld.com/ugc/blogs/2015/05/solar_parity_coming.html re: comment by SCOOPER(3/21/2014), "It will take 30-80 years to break even on these systems if you factor in all of the maintenance required." NONSENSE!! "30-80 years" Scooper, Did you make a typographical error? FACT: 'Payoff' for most residential Grid-tied with battery backup solar electric Systems = LESS than 20(Twenty) Years (inc. any MX for systems located in contiguous US)with Federal 30% tax credit.


ga
5/28/2015 9:32:33 AM

MAJOR UPDATE on PAYOFF of Solar Energy Systems! http://blog.renewableenergyworld.com/ugc/blogs/2015/05/solar_parity_coming.html re: comment by SCOOPER(3/21/2014), "It will take 30-80 years to break even on these systems if you factor in all of the maintenance required." NONSENSE!! "30-80 years" Scooper, Did you make a typographical error? FACT: 'Payoff' for most residential Grid-tied with battery backup solar electric Systems = LESS than 20(Twenty) Years (inc. any MX for systems located in contiguous US)with Federal 30% tax credit.


elaine
7/27/2014 7:53:36 AM

We unfortunately, have had a horrible experience with our solar panel company. They are using the solar panel projects to rip people off, including seniors and widows. The projects are a joke, being split in up to three different directions and surrounded by large shading trees. Snow covers the panels in winter up here, yet they charge us hundreds of dollars anyway? People are losing thousands every year off this scam created by this "green project" and introduced by the government.. Buyer beware, check the BBB sites and our particular supplier has been in four lawsuits with the Ontario Energy Board, yet continue to rip folks off? They keep changing their company name but not their shady practices. Use MUCH due diligence so you are not financially raped by this so called "green project". It is destroying lives. Elaine


elizabeth
7/8/2014 5:47:53 PM

Thanks for this article! I must admit that the price of installing pv system is still gradually falling, and that's great. I hope that people will turn to being more environment-friendly. To all reading it: we have to start being more responsible for our environment and use renewable sources of energy. It's really not that hard to design and do all the installations, especially now, that we have better tools to do it, like the apps ( this one for example http://easysolar.co/ ) that practically do everything for you, design, calculate the azimuth, provide you with simulations and financial analysis and save you time! Start to make good changes! And good luck! Elizabeth


roxysmith666
4/25/2014 5:12:10 AM

I believe that wherever you are in this continent as long as the sun hits your spot you already have a solar energy power. There are lot's of http://www.goldcoast-solarpanels.com/ available in the market today.


scooper
3/21/2014 1:18:38 AM

The sun gives a lot of energy in a varying light spectrum. We can capture only small amounts of that spectrum and convert them to electricity by using photovoltaic panels. Today's crystalline solar panels are about 6% to 19% efficient. A fossil fuel burning generator has an efficiency of about 29%. All solar panels lose efficiency each year with their constant exposure to the elements. You need to buy a very expensive set of panels to get the most efficiency and longevity. You also require a set of batteries and have to wire them to your house and to the solar panels. {Most estimates say that the batteries will last for 5 - 7 years} Suntech is a huge solar panel company and their "new" 60-cell monocrystalline solar module only has a 16% efficiency rate. Phoenix AZ averages 6.5 hours of direct sunlight per day, so for a quarter of the time you are getting the full monty and the other 8.5 hours a day you get less sunlight to almost none and of course at night, zero percent. If you live anywhere else, you will get less sunlight and the further north you go, you get a lot less intensity. The average US home used 11,000 kWh per year {in 2012} and the average price per kWh was 11.7c. So the average home in the USA spends roughly $1,300 per year for electricity. When most reasonable estimates put a solar panel system {capable of running the entire home off the grid} at $30,000 - $50,000 and that doesn't include maintenance, battery replacement or adjusting the angles of the panels every few weeks to maximize their ability to capture the sun's rays. It will take 30-80 years to break even on these systems if you factor in all of the maintenance required.


dialus
3/8/2014 11:12:32 AM

It is nice one.Thanks sharing it.


nick
12/13/2013 2:19:21 PM

Eddie is absolutely right. Hopefully homeowners are becoming more aware of other ways of financing their solar systems rather than the expensive leases that some companies are pushing. Solar is cost effective right now for millions of homeowners across the country. Nick Tedesco solar-power-now.com


nick
12/13/2013 2:18:17 PM

Eddie is absolutely right. Hopefully homeowners are becoming more aware of other ways of financing their solar systems rather than the expensive leases that some companies are pushing. Solar is cost effective right now for millions of homeowners across the country. Nick Tedesco solar-power-now.com


sacramentosolar
11/25/2013 1:58:45 AM

The only way to get these federal tax credits and rebates for solar is if you PURCHASE the panels, and not lease them.

The majority of companies out there are leasing companies, so do a little research before you settle on one.

Eddie
http://www.sacramentosolarcompany.com/


electronics4dogs
8/29/2013 8:53:38 PM

t brandt raises an interesting point. Is it better to invest some amount of money (such as $27,500) in the stock market or in a home solar installation? The answer depends very much on assumptions, including assumptions about the future. Future value of the Dow-Jones Average (DJA) is highly uncertain, and subject to energy costs among other things. While the rising cost of fossil fuels could be bad for the DJA, it will definitely increase the savings from generating solar electricity. So it is far from certain that the DJA will have better return than the solar investment. A more fundamental problem with the analysis is that we are comparing an investment in the DJA which we liquidate after some number of years with one that produces monthly tax-free "dividends" in the form of reduced energy costs. We could spend or reinvest the solar "dividends" as we choose, but when we liquidate the DJA investment we would have to pay taxes. Of course, we could also take monthly payouts from the DJA investment, but we would still pay taxes and would earn less by not allowing the gains to compound. Current production solar panels can be expected to produce at least 80% (not 50%) of their original output after 20 years, and batteries are optional in grid-connected systems. A more reasonable estimate of system lifetime would be 40 years, although inverters might need to be replaced before that. When these considerations are taken into account, it's not clear there is any advantage of DJA over solar in terms of risk and financial return. But we don't make investments based purely on risk and rate of return, but also on our priorities and values.


t brandt
9/18/2012 10:05:49 PM

The DJA has returned about 5% per annum over the past 125 yrs. Your initial investment of $27,500 for your solar system, had it been invested in the Dow, would have earned you about $73,000 over the 20 yr effective lifetime of the solar panels. (they're less than 50% effective after 20 yrs). An average family uses 1000kW-hr per month with grid costs $0.20 per kW-hr (a higher than average estimate), so they would spend $48,000 for grid power over 20 yrs. With the solar panels, you'd be at least $25,000 behind. Then you'd have to invest the initial capital again after 20 yrs. And don't forget the cost of replacing batteries every 5 yrs....It's only worth it if you live way off grid and the cost of running lines is in excess of $25,000.






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