How much does a solar system cost?
A system big enough to supply energy for an average home (920 kWh/mo.) will cost $2,400 to $79,000. That compares to $63,000 the average household would have spent on average for dirty electricity over 21 years (assuming that electrical costs rise at an average of 4% per year).
Yes, that's quite a range in prices. The price is affected by tax credits, rebates, local prices in your area, and how much sun you get. Since everyone's situation is different, the calculator at right will help you figure the costs for your particular situation.
What you'll see is that in many cases, solar is affordable right this very minute. If the calculator shows that your price per kWH is less than what you're currently paying per kWh, then solar is an excellent deal and I recommend you explore it. If your price per kWh is over what you're currently paying, then consider whether you're willing to pay a premium to go green. Most people who have gone solar so far have paid a little extra in order to get their energy without pollution; the environment was their concern, not money. But as solar is becoming cost-competitive with dirty energy, people are indeed saving money by going solar.
Realize that you don't have to get a system large enough to generate as much as you use. You can start out with a system that generates 80%, 50%, 25%, or even just 10% of your needs to lower your cost. And a 10% reduction in pollution is better than 0%.The site is from 2010 but has a ton of info.
The Price per kWh and Source of Electricity comparison graph doesn't translate wellhttp://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/solar.html
Solar is finally affordable in many cases . Here's why.
Solar gets cheaper every year. It's not just that every year solar gets a little cheaper. It's also that every year dirty energy like oil and gas gets more expensive. And while that's always been true, what's special about now is that in many cases those lines have already crossed, making solar cheaper than dirty energy. Solar costs have gone down by an average of 3.5% per year from 1998 to 2007 in real dollars
Rental Programs. At least three different companies offer rental programs which let you rent the panels for a fraction of the cost of buying the system outright. Another attractive benefit of rental programs is that you're not responsible for maintenance. If something breaks, the company fixes it for free and you don't have to worry about it. Here's how the different residential rental programs stack up.
Film-based solar cells. A company called Nanosolar has developed a method to make solar cells at a much lower cost. Instead of making big, expensive silicon cells, their method involves printing a very thin, flexible film. This makes solar power cost-competitive with electricity from the grid. The founders of Google were so excited about this breakthrough that they invested in the company. Nanosolar is actually producing product now (this isn't just a pipe dream), but as I write this product is sold out through 2009. (More from Technology Review and the manufacturer) A similar technology is dye-sensitized cells, which are supposed to be 1/10th the cost of traditional cells, but there's no word yet on when they'll go into production.
Plastic solar cells. Like Nanosolar, STMicroelectronics came up with an alternative to expensive silicon cells. Their solution involves making cells out of plastic. It's not nearly as efficient as silicon, but it's a whole lot cheaper to produce. Something like twenty times cheaper. Suddenly this makes solar cost-competitive with the grid. There are two downsides: One, because the new cells are less efficient, you need a lot more space to produce the same amount of electricity as with conventional cells. Most homes barely have have enough roof area to generate all their electricity from regular solar cells, and with the less efficient cells, it's unlikely that a house could go solar for all its needs. (It could certainly augment its grid usage, though.) And two, these new cells aren't available to consumers yet, but I'm guessing they'll be available by 2010. (More from CNN and the manufacturer)
Trackers & Mirrors. This is an old idea but it's taken a while for anyone to make it easy and cheap enough: Use motors to keep slightly moving the panels to keep them aimed directly at the sun, and use lenses and mirrors to concentrate the sun's energy. And motors and mirrors are a lot cheaper to make than solar cells. Many of these products are available now.
How does a solar energy system work?
A complete system consists of:
Inverters, which convert DC electricity into AC
Service panels to tie the output to your home's wiring, and to let you send excess electricity back to the utility
A system could also have batteries to store extra electricity. This would allow you to live completely off the grid if your system were big enough and if you were good at conservation. But it also increases the cost and maintenance requirements substantially, so I recommend you pass on the batteries. It's easier just to send the excess you generate back to the utility and get paid for it.
With a battery-less system, sometimes you'll be using grid energy and sometimes you'll be using solar energy. Here's a chart showing a hypothetical system:
Red bars. At night when the sun's not shining, you'll be getting your electricity from your local utility.
Green bars. During the day, your system will make some electric and you'll use it right away.
Yellow bars. During the day you'll make more electric than you need, and you'll sell that back to the utility.
So as long as you're still connected to the grid, the size of a system is kind of arbitrary. You could have a tiny system that simply fuels part of your needs with green energy, or you could have a massive system which still won't fuel all your needs, because it won't run at night.Image address too huge...cannot post....visit the site:http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/solar.html
Google goes solar in a big way
In 2007 Google built a massive 1.6-megawatt solar system at its headquarters in California. It generates 30% of Google's peak demand, and around two million kWH a year. It's the largest corporate solar install in the U.S. (There are larger installations at utility companies, but this is the biggest for a company generating its own electric. Here's a good list of the largest solar installations in the world.)
Google has a page where you can see how much electricity they generated in the last 24 hours and the last 7 days. You can also see a flyover video of their installation.
The system will take 7 years to pay for itself, and then will generate free electricity for another 18. (The lifespan of the panels is about 25 years.)
It doesn't end with this huge installation. In late 2007 Google announced its plans to develop a whopping one gigawatt of energy from renewable sources at a cost cheaper than coal, and to do it "within years, not decades". Wow.!http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/solar.html