1. On the cost of solar power.

    February 20, 2013 by Max
    There are two ways to harness the power of the sun. We can collect the heat and use it directly for heating domestic water or even to heat the home by placing a “radiator” in the furnace plenum or we can use photovoltaic (PV) panels to convert the sun to electricity. Solar PV has come a long way and with modern micro-inverters can serve up the same AC voltage as the house without a large central inverter or fat DC wiring. Just hook up to your breaker panel and you’re good to go. Solar PV has no moving parts and we know the Sun will come out tomorrow. (Sorry…it’s playing in my head too.) Once the solar array is paid for, the power is basically free.

    So, where is the down side? With solar PV it come down to money. The initial investment can seem excessive and standard ROI calculations don’t really apply. The problem is that none of us can predict the future. If you think your electric bill is high, try doing a return on investment calculation with solar. For example, a small, eight panel array would be about 2kW and produce about 3000 kWh per year. If you are paying ten cents a kilowatt hour for power, that is about three-hundred dollars a year. At an cost of say, six bucks a watt for installed solar PV, and taking into account the thirty percent federal tax credit, it will take over twenty five years to get your initial investment back! But wait… that assumes the cost of power stays at about ten cent a kilowatt and there’s the rub. With the numbers above, over it’s thirty year life span, the power produced by the array will cost about nine cents per kWh. Do you think we will be paying the power company a dime per kilowatt-hour in the year 2043? Me either.

    One analogy might be; buying a new car and paying for all the gas it will ever use at the time of purchase. That would be one expensive car, but you will never pay to fill tank again and you bought the gas at the 2012 price! It’s the same with solar power. Once you know how to look at it, The initial investment starts to make sense and the environmental benefits to the planet, are just icing on the cake.