Solar electricity is a great source of clean energy, reducing carbon emissions and dependency on oil and other fossil fuels. But is it worth the cost? Yes, if you know what you’re doing!
Recently, I’ve been filtering through the tons of information about solar electricity on the web. With 10 years experience as a solar energy professional, I can say there’s a lot of confusing and sometimes even misleading info. You’ve got to compare apples to apples. Remember to look at the $ per watt for a photovoltaic (solar electric) system. Over the lifetime of the system this translates into $ per kilowatt-hour, just like on your electric bill.
Here’s a few key points.
- You can build your own solar panels, even install a complete system, for a lot less than the going commercial price. There’s no special skills or tools required.
- Or you can pay more and have a contractor do all the work. There’s usually some tax deductions and rebate programs. Depending on where you live, this may or may not offer greater savings than doing it yourself. Even so, you really should learn about photovoltaic systems before making such a large investment.
- Starting in just the last few years, a photovoltaic system can indeed save you money.
- Costs for a panel can range widely from $5 per watt to $9 or more per watt.
- You can make your own panels for as little as $2 per watt..
- For a complete system, over the system lifetime this translates to $0.05 to $0.30 per kWh (kilowatt-hour).
- Your exact numbers depend on how whether you need batteries (out in the country, no utility hook-up), how much sunlight your location receives, and how much you do yourself.
With the proper information, you can trade your time for dollars to bring solar electricity down into the affordable range. It also makes great brain-cell nourishing weekend products, reduces your carbon foot print, and works towards energy independence. In many cases it does indeed save money, allowing you to invest now for future savings.