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 "Solar Power Economics..." 
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Post "Solar Power Economics..."
Solar Power Economics - General Rules of Thumb For System Costs
by: Kriss Bergethon

Grid-Tie System Costs

It's difficult to estimate exactly what you are going to pay for a system. Prices and installation costs vary widely based on local competition, hardware availability, and the difficulty of installation. OK? Next subject.

But wait!!! That doesn't help at all does it? There are some basic rules of thumb we can use to estimate system cost. Solar panels have been coming down in price recently has worldwide production has increased.

An easy number to remember is $8-9/watt for an installed system. That means that if you decide you want a 2,000 watt system you can expect to pay between $16,000-$18,000 before incentives. So what goes into that number? Generally equipment runs about $4-$4.50 per watt for panels, mounting, wiring, inverter and various fasteners. Panels themselves are running about $3.50/watt.

The remaining $4-$5 per watt covers the labor, licensing, insurance, equipment, overhead (office, phones, the owner's annual boondoggle to Maui), and profit for the installing contractor. Sound like a lot? These guys earn it. Unlike some trades where cheap, unskilled labor can knock out a job in a few hours, solar can be complicated and roof work is dangerous.

Off-Grid System Costs

Off-grid systems are much more complicated (complicated = expensive if you haven't picked up on that already). Off-grid system can run anywhere from 20-50% more than grid-tie systems. So a budgetary number is around $13-15/watt for an off-grid system.

Why so much more? One word: batteries. Batteries add a tremendous amount of expense and complexity. One deep-cycle battery for off-grid use can run $300, and often times system require 16 batteries. We 're talking about $5,000 for batteries. Then there's the charge controller, the copper wiring for all the batteries, and most systems need some kind of enclosure.

Still, most people who are considering an off-grid system don't have a lot of choices when it comes to power sources, so spending $13/watt or spending evenings by a candle is an easy choice.

There are some plug and play kits for much less (around $7.50 per watt) but they are intended for small homes and you have to install them yourself.

About The Author
Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado.

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[Note: Due to a size limitation, the title, above, had to be abbreviated. Apologies to the author and - Admin]
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Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:41 am
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