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  • How much do solar panels cost

    Hi All,

    Just thought I would start off some stickies for this section with some basic info for the newbs.

    Ok, so generally when someone asks "how much do solar panels cost" what they are really asking is "how much for a solar pv grid tied system for my house". There are many components that go into a grid tied pv system for you house: like;

    1. Solar Panels, these generally come in mono crystalline or poly crystalline, the polys are generally slightly cheaper as they are slightly cheaper to produce and it doesn't matter what you choose they both make electricity.

    2. Racking, this is the framework that enables you to attach your solar panels to your roof ( you can also opt for a ground mount system if you have the room but they are generally much more expensive) there are many different types of racking and your potential installer will generally have a favorite or your roof type will determine what type of racking you need.

    3. Inverter, there are generally speaking 3 types of inverter, a) String Inverter the type of inverter that has been around for a long time now, is a single unit (you can use multiple inverters if required) usually mounted near your electricity meter. b) Micro-Inverters are a newer technology where each panel (some micro's do 2 panels) has its own micro-inverter mounted on the roof under the panel, this enables individual panel monitoring. c) Hybrid Inverters are used in grid-tied solar systems where batteries are also used, this means the inverter can determine whether to send the power generated from the panels to the load for the house or to charge the batteries or send excess power to the grid, this is a newer tech and is quite expensive.

    4. Plans and permits, all grid tied solar power systems need to be approved for connection to the POCO's (power companies) grid. This means they will require a plan of your system to be submitted to them for approval, generally the city will also require the plan or other paperwork to be completed in order to approve the solar installation. These should be done by qualified people and need to comply with all electrical rules and regulations.

    5. Sundry Electrical equipment, this covers things like electrical cabling (wire), circuit breakers, fasteners, labels and there could be other stuff depending on what your doing

    6. How difficult is your install, from SunEagle;
    "One other item to mention would be the complexity of the installation.

    It might cost more on a 2 story home then a 1 story. Also if the array is pointed in multiple directions East, South & West that could add costs to the installation.

    Finally if the system is a ground mounted then that usually includes concrete footings, fencing around the array as well as an underground trench for the wire from the array to the inverter. All that adds to the $/watt cost depending on the location and distance needed."

    OK now that we understand there is a lot more to a solar system than just solar panels lets move on. When we in the solar industry talk about costs we talk about the per watt installed cost. So when someone gives you a quote (hypothetically) and say its for a 5kW system (kW = kilowatt, 1 kW = 1000 watts) consisting of 20 x 250 watt panels or 5000 watts or 5kW and all other equipment required, inverter and racking, labor. permits, everything for a total of say $15,000. You can then work out your per watt installed cost by taking the total out of pocket cost and divide by the total watt size of your system, so $15,000 divided by 5000watts = $3 dollars a watt installed price.

    Ok now we understand the whole how much a watt business we can move on to, well how much does it cost already. In the USA at the moment it seems to range from $3 to $5 per watt installed. There are a few things to consider here, the first one is location, sometimes your location will effect the price of the system, for example in Arizona we have several members of this forum who can get solar installed for just under $3 per watt at the moment. The other thing to consider is brands of equipment, there are some brands that are a lot more expensive than others and a few manufacturers claiming all sorts of rubbish. You dont have to pay the most to get good equipment, there are a couple of manufactures that claim their product is worth a large premium over others and its seems to me that this is just plain not true.

    So I hope that has thrown some light onto the subject, as this is a fresh post and I am going to make it a sticky please feel free to comment, or correct any mistakes I may have made or suggest adding anything I left out, cheers all

  • #2
    Good post Pete.

    One other item to mention would be the complexity of the installation.

    It might cost more on a 2 story home then a 1 story. Also if the array is pointed in multiple directions East, South & West that could add costs to the installation.

    Finally if the system is a ground mounted then that usually includes concrete footings, fencing around the array as well as an underground trench for the wire from the array to the inverter. All that adds to the $/watt cost depending on the location and distance needed.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by SunEagle View Post
      Good post Pete.

      One other item to mention would be the complexity of the installation.

      It might cost more on a 2 story home then a 1 story. Also if the array is pointed in multiple directions East, South & West that could add costs to the installation.

      Finally if the system is a ground mounted then that usually includes concrete footings, fencing around the array as well as an underground trench for the wire from the array to the inverter. All that adds to the $/watt cost depending on the location and distance needed.
      Thanks SunEagle, good feed back I will add a number 6 to the above list, cheers mate.

      Comment


      • #4
        Solar pete, good info. I'm wondering how people calculate the $.08 or $.10, etc cost of a kWh? Is there a standard calculation people use for timeframe, such as 20 years or 25 years and if a string inverter is used, are people calculating with 2x the cost of the inverter at initial purchase?

        Comment


        • DaveDE2
          DaveDE2 commented
          Editing a comment
          There is no standard as far as I'm aware for $/kWhr. The SAM tool allows you to put in whatever you want, if you shorten the time frame, your cost goes up, etc. SAM (and no other calculatotor that I'm aware of) assumes no replacement cost during the period. A string inverter may last only 10 years or it may last 25. Much of that has to do with the environment it's in, how hard it has been running and just plain luck. I think the calculators are optomistic, they assume no equipment failures.

      • #5
        Originally posted by DaveDE2 View Post
        SAM (and no other calculatotor that I'm aware of) assumes no replacement cost during the period. A string inverter may last only 10 years or it may last 25. Much of that has to do with the environment it's in, how hard it has been running and just plain luck. I think the calculators are optomistic, they assume no equipment failures.
        The cost of equipment failures can be estimated and added to annual maint. costs. The lost production due to equipment failures can be estimated and added to system (un)availability.

        Comment


        • #6
          Solar PV system prices will vary widely, but just as a baseline - Solar equipment (panels, inverters, racking + all the other miscellaneous stuff) is currently costing me about $1.32/watt wholesale.
          BSEE, R11, NABCEP, >1200kW installed

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by solarix View Post
            Solar PV system prices will vary widely, but just as a baseline - Solar equipment (panels, inverters, racking + all the other miscellaneous stuff) is currently costing me about $1.32/watt wholesale.
            You must be purchasing that stuff in large "lots" to get such a low price.

            Comment


            • #8
              Originally posted by SunEagle View Post

              You must be purchasing that stuff in large "lots" to get such a low price.
              Nope, and the well-known distributors I work with (not sunelec) are such whores, they will allow anybody to qualify as a dealer as long as you pay cash up front and can unload a semi-truck. We don't scrimp on quality either - only name brand mainstream PV brands and pretty much only SMA inverters these days. We do however have our own racking system fabricated from standard aluminum stock and approved by a local PE for our use. The last 4 pallets of Q-cells I got were only 69cents/w!
              BSEE, R11, NABCEP, >1200kW installed

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by solarix View Post
                Solar PV system prices will vary widely, but just as a baseline - Solar equipment (panels, inverters, racking + all the other miscellaneous stuff) is currently costing me about $1.32/watt wholesale.

                Sounds about right. Any Joe who looks around can find racking at ~$0.23/w (IronRidge), decent panels at ~$0.59/w and inverters (SMA) for $0.32/w. Add in wiring, soladeck etc, all told $1.32/w sounds about right.

                Comment


                • #10
                  Originally posted by DaveDE2 View Post


                  Sounds about right. Any Joe who looks around can find racking at ~$0.23/w (IronRidge), decent panels at ~$0.59/w and inverters (SMA) for $0.32/w. Add in wiring, soladeck etc, all told $1.32/w sounds about right.
                  I am not saying that you couldn't find all of the components to build a working system which ends up costing you less than $1.50/watt.

                  What I am saying is that finding quality solar hardware components to build the system for that low cost will not be the norm. So if you say it is easy to repeat the process multiple times I would say I find that hard to believe. Unless you want to provide specific sites to purchase that equipment.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Here is the list of some topnotch manufacturers of complete solar panel kits. I think that you can get some useful information about solar panel and its prices.

                    MOD NOTE. It is ok to mention a vendor but not attach their advertisement link.
                    Last edited by SunEagle; 05-02-2016, 09:50 AM. Reason: replaced advertisement link

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      May be solar panels are expensive at first but you just need to invest once and always take benefit of solar energy. The cost of solar panel also depend on the company from which company you are installing solar panel. I have installed solar light in my home and the company provide me solar energy in a very cheap rate.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Originally posted by BrentEMarvin View Post
                        May be solar panels are expensive at first but you just need to invest once and always take benefit of solar energy. The cost of solar panel also depend on the company from which company you are installing solar panel. I have installed solar light in my home and the company provide me solar energy in a very cheap rate.
                        What is a "very cheap rate" and how much ($/watt) did it cost you to install your system?

                        In some places even a system at $2/watt would take more than 10 years to pay for itself because electricity from the Power utility is cheap. Other places even $4/watt for a solar pv system can pay for itself in 5 years because the cost of electricity is very high.

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          some solar companies will only install roof mounted panels and not on the ground. what's the difference??

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Originally posted by rufusincognitus View Post
                            some solar companies will only install roof mounted panels and not on the ground. what's the difference??
                            A ground mount is usually more expensive then a basic roof top installation. There are also some additional design and permitting required for the support structure the panels sit on. A lot of installers may not want to go through the extra hurdles to do a ground mount.

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