What goes into determining the cost of solar panels, then?
Few people are aware of the actual methods used to calculate the cost of solar panel installations when considering solar energy. Or even, for that matter, do we instantly understand the relationship between the price of solar power and its worth? Everybody is aware that petrol costs are expressed in dollars per gallon. We are all also aware of the approximate distance we can travel after spending $40 on a tank of gas. Solar panels offer their worth over time, as opposed to a tank of gas, whose value can essentially be spent quickly.
With that in mind, the two questions below are the focus of this article: How much do solar panels cost? AND (2) Can solar panels’ worth justify their price?
Since the cost of solar panels is closely related to the initial query, we’ll start there. The cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert solar energy into electricity, is typically expressed in dollars per watt ($/W). Generally speaking, this stage is connected to a number of facts. You could hear some folks discussing the differences between DC and AC watts. Additionally, they might bring up a concept known as dollars per watt peak ($/Wp). But the most important thing to keep in mind is that, when you choose to purchase a solar energy system, you are actually buying the “potential,” or ability to produce electricity both now and in the future. Really cool, huh?
In light of that, how much money will you be spending? What are the upfront expenses for a solar PV system?
The outcome varies a little from home to home because every solar home installation is a little bit different. In addition, the cost varies somewhat from region to region because solar tax credits and rebates are typically offered at the state and/or local level. You should know that a federal solar energy tax credit worth 30% of system costs is available to all US households with federal income tax liability. Here are a few helpful websites for learning about solar energy costs:
(1) Pricing information from solar installers across the US can be found in The Open PV Project, an initiative of the National Renewable Energy Lab. The national average cost of solar PV in 2010 was $7.15 per watt. Since not all solar installation businesses are involved in this program, the data isn’t entirely accurate. However, the data shows how much, for instance, the typical Arizona homeowner might spend ($5.64/W) in comparison to the typical New Jersey homeowner ($7.64/W).
(2) In some areas, solar providers are required to report the cost of their installations, and authorities have the right to withhold solar incentives if the information is withheld. The end product is fairly extensive cost information on solar panels. For instance, Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Solar Rebate Program reports that the average rate for residential solar energy projects with a median system capacity of 8 kilowatts is $5.32/W (kW). The California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission’s joint venture, Go Solar California, are currently giving quarterly updates on domestic solar costs, which are currently averaging around $7.19 per watt.
(3)If you are unsure, pick a general rule of thumb. Use a default value of $7.00/W in figuring out the price of solar panels for residential projects. Although this number might not be exact, it is a decent place to start. Keep in mind that any solar rebates and tax credits available in your area may result in reducing this pre-incentive amount.
(4) Make an effort to obtain solar energy pricing quotes from at least two (preferably three) different authorized solar installers.In the end, you won’t be able to estimate how much solar panels will cost for your home until you have received a firm proposal.
It has been shown above that it is difficult to draw generalizations because each project is unique. However, assuming a pre-incentive price of $7.00/W, a typical 5-kW system would likely have a gross cost of $35,000 ($7.00/W x 5,000 W = $35,000). This gross cost will be further reduced by any solar rebates offered, as well as by the federal solar tax credit, which is worth 30%.
Does the price of solar panels justify the value they provide?
This response also changes from project to project and location to location. A solar panel system can pay for itself in as little as three to five years in states that are “excellent” for solar, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Hawaii, among others, and provide reliable, long-term energy savings.
When planning a residential solar energy project, you should consider the following elements because each one affects the financial return on your solar panel investment:
(1) the true cost of your electricity usage.All things being equal, people who pay a relatively high per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) price for their electricity may benefit most financially from installing a solar energy system in their home.
(2) Are there any local tax breaks for solar energy?A home solar energy system will not only lower your electricity bill but also generate income above and beyond utility savings if you live in a state where you can sell solar renewable energy credits (SRECs).
(3) the amount of sunlight, also known as “insolation,” in your area.Although most of the United States receives enough sunlight to make solar energy a viable option, solar energy systems do produce more power in sunny regions.
(4) The potential impact solar panels will have on your home’s value Solar panels typically increase a home’s value and, as a result, lower the cost of ownership.
An accurate quote will clearly show the cost advantages of a particular system over time. It will also include a cash flow analysis that forecasts the investment recovery period and the return on investment (ROI).
Naturally, it is up to you, the property owner, to decide what kind of financial payback you desire from an upgrade to your home’s energy efficiency. Many consumers are okay with a ten-year repayment schedule and are aware that a solar panel system will continue to produce inflation-protected financial savings for an additional 15 years after the initial ten years. Other homeowners could choose an investment recovery of perhaps five years or less.
Numerous new solar energy projects are often significantly reducing homeowners’ electricity bills and providing a positive return on investment. Solar panels are significantly more valuable than they initially cost. To be honest, though, there are some states with inadequate local solar subsidies and/or reasonably priced electricity. Nevada, Kentucky, and Alabama are a few examples. It is currently unclear in these locations if the value of solar energy outweighs the costs. One in Nebraska, as an example, could be excused for being concerned when faced with a 19-year investment recovery and a return on investment in the low single digits.
You may assume that the value of a home solar energy system increases for almost all property owners across the country as solar panels’ cost becomes a little cheaper every day and as more states implement measures to boost demand for solar electricity. Don’t pass up a fantastic opportunity if you’re fortunate enough to live in a place where solar energy is already more valuable than it is expensive.
Installing Solar Panel
After a recent five-day voyage on our trawler, during which we regularly had to start the genset to supply electricity to the 115 volt AC freezer in order to maintain temperatures, I started to consider my choices. In just five days, we used the vessel generator for more than 90 hours; it’s time for another oil change! Soon after, I installed an inverter, greatly extending the generator’s runtime, but there was still work to be done. However, in order to run the inverter, I had to keep the batteries completely charged. Then it dawned on me: why not look into using solar panels on our yacht? Since the middle of the 1950s, solar panels have been effectively used for manned space exploration. Since around 2004, when their popularity started to increase significantly, their price has been declining. And with the current green pressure, solar panels are still widely accepted. As a result, I started researching them to learn where I might buy and mount one. I was in for a major shock. You may find several online retailers who will sell you solar panels, but I was unable to find any information on how to choose the right panel to buy or how to install it, much less on a boat. Because I wrote this as I progressed through the development, it is genuinely a learn-as-you-go post.
How Do Solar Panels Actually Work? What are they exactly?
A solar panel is any panel that generates electricity using the sun’s heat energy. A photovoltaic panel, which is the term used in the industry for panels used to produce electrical energy from the sun’s emissions, can be compared to a solar panel. Almost all solar panels are flat, despite the category being debated. This is so that the panel’s surface can absorb sunlight at its optimal angle, which requires a 90-degree tilt from the sun’s rays. Through a network of solar cells on their surface, solar panels may take in energy from the sun. Solar cells work in a manner that is quite similar to how a plant may absorb solar energy for photosynthesis. The energy from the sun’s rays is transferred to a silicon semiconductor as it strikes the solar cells on a photovoltaic panel. The energy is next converted to DC (direct current) electrical energy, which is then sent over connecting lines before entering a storage battery.
Different Kinds of Solar Panels
The most common types of solar panels for yachting applications contain either multicrystalline or amorphous thin-film cells. The oldest and most durable technology available is multicrystalline technology. These are the panels to use for driving heavy loads like refrigerators when properly sized and combined with sufficient batteries.
Amorphous thin film solar panels are available in flexible varieties that can roll, fold, or transform into the shape of a boat cabin top or bimini, although they are only approximately 50% as effective as multicrystalline panels. They can be used to lightly charge a battery bank but frequently don’t produce enough energy to do so.
What kind of power can solar cells produce?
Typically, the wattage of solar panels is how we measure them and purchase them. Solar panels for boats range in power from 10 watts to 200 watts or even more. But when we convert watts to amperage, it is easier to comprehend. In order to determine these figures, we multiplied the panel’s wattage by the number of hours the panel is exposed to direct sunlight, which is typically five hours per day in Florida. A 195-watt solar panel would provide 975 watts per day (195 x 5 hours). So, we may calculate that 975 watts x 12 volts equals 81.25 amps each day.
Consumption of energy
You must complete an energy budget to determine what sources of power consumption you have on board while at anchor before deciding the size of the panel to buy for your boat. I chose the at anchor scenario because this is where you will use the most energy; you are not using any electricity, and your trawler can easily meet its needs.
For instance, your consumption would be 3 x 2 x 4 = 24 AH/day if you had three interior lights that each consumed 2 amps and were left on for 4 hours each night. Operating electronics and lights are not a worry for us because we will likely be at anchor and they won’t be running.
Calculate the number of amp-hours utilized by each appliance using the DC load method.
- Interior Lighting
- anchor lamps
- Electric restroom
- pumping fresh water.
- The healthcare system
Loads on A/V Inverters
Although inverter loads use DC electricity as well, they power AC devices and equipment. To convert watts to amps, multiply 12 watts by 12 volts.
Determine how many amp hours each appliance uses.
- Dryer, hair
Creation of Solar Energy
The amp/hours drawn from the batteries can be replaced by other power sources, such as solar panels. But you will also need to calculate your re-supply of amp hours, just like the power budget that determined your usage. Remember that 12 watts x 12 volts equals 1 amp. However, keep in mind that the formula is merely a guide; perfect precision can only be achieved where the production of the panels is consistent, and a solar panel may occasionally perform ineffectively due to an overcast sky. Compare the generation of solar electricity to the daily power consumption measured in AH/Day. You must generate more solar energy than you consume.If it isn’t, select a higher-wattage panel and recalculate.Always buy more solar panel output than you anticipate needing; some experts advise at least a 30% surplus.
How to Install a Solar Panel
Where do you place your solar panel on your yacht now that you have one? As previously noted, it is ideal to install the panel 90 degrees from the sun. This method will produce the most electricity. Getting to a suitable location, however, is at best difficult aboard yachts. Some sailors mount them on rail-mounted brackets, while others install them atop the bimini, and I’ve even seen them mounted on trawler dinghy stanchions. To get the most out of them, however, they should be mounted in the open, free from any obstructions like booms, vessel radar arches, or cabin structures. Remember that the boat will rotate to face the sun twice daily while at anchor due to tides. I decided to put our panel horizontally on top of the roof of the boat’s back deck. As the boat swings at anchor, it will be clear from the radar arch and receive the best sun exposure here. Even though the slope toward the sun is not exactly 90 degrees, it will have to do. I chose a 195 watt panel so that I would have almost 50% spare power to make up for the little inefficiency of the sun’s angle. We purchased the panel from Miami-based Sun Electronics (sunelec.com), because they offered the lowest rates I could locate online. But keep in mind that panels must be transported via freight because they must be tightly packed to minimize the possibility of damage, so be sure to factor those costs into your purchase.
What is the most effective technique to fasten the panel to your boat?
Solar panel mounting rails and supports are created by many different companies, but practically all of them are designed for roof or ground mounting. There is a product available from West Marine to mount tiny panels to rails. Many boaters construct their own mounts. I discovered a Sunsei Glue Mounting Kit, a mount made by the company that uses 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive to adhere to the panel and vessel. The mount enables the panel to be mounted with around 2 inches of aeration space underneath the panel. The hardtop did not require any drilling, however. These mounts are available on Amazon.com.
How to Wire a Panel
If you are unsure about handling this portion of the task, since marine electrical wiring is so dangerous and highly skilled, consult an expert marine electrician. Your panel will be prewired to attach to your vessel, but you’ll need to supply the MC4 cables for connection, which your panel supplier will also sell. The cables will be created with a male and female connector attached and in various lengths to suit your needs; simply cut one connector off.
You’ll also need a controller, of course. The controller controls the power flow from the panel to your batteries, ensuring that they are charged without going overboard. While some controllers are simple, others incorporate LED screens that show the charge level, among other things. It will cost more for the more opulent features. Your panel dealer can recommend a controller that meets your requirements. I went with a Specialty Concepts controller. Although simple, it gets the job done. Additionally, the staff at the company will go above and beyond to help you choose the ideal model for your panel. When you get in touch with them, they’ll want to know what voltage you’re using and what size panel (wattage) you have. Visit www.specialtyconcepts.com to learn more. Additionally, I purchased my controller from Sun Electronics in Miami.
The staff at Specialty Concepts has also assessed how heat will affect current flow and advises against placing their controllers in engine rooms because the heat produced will reduce the controller’s efficiency by about 25%. Mine is in the panel under the lower helm, by the way. Finally, you will need the appropriate-sized wires to connect your batteries to the controller, as well as a fuse to link the controller to the battery bank. Identifying the short circuit current for your panel and rating the breaker at 125 percent of that figure will assist you in selecting the appropriate fuse.You will know the amperage of the breaker you require from this. You can find information about them in your controller’s operation manual as well.
Owning a solar panel might seem like a fantastic idea to protect your batteries, but you’ll need a way to monitor your batteries. I decided to add a Trimetric 2025RV Battery Monitor, available from Bogart Engineering. This sophisticated device is hooked into your battery bank to give an accurate reading of the voltage entering the bank, the amps being used by your boat, the percentage of the bank’s charge that is still full, and the amp hours used from the previous charge.
So now, in addition to an 1800 watt inverter and a battery bank with 443 amp hours, we have also put in a 195 watt solar panel. We conducted our testing this week under clear skies on the hook. I came to the conclusion that we use 112.5 awgs of energy every day. The refrigerator is the next biggest consumer of amp hours, needing 60 of them, followed by the freezer. Unbeknownst to you, a typical anchor light consumes 18 amps per night. I’m going to look into LED lamps right now.
The battery monitor showed that we only actually drew 65 amp-hours from the battery bank, meaning that the sun provided all of the remaining 42 percent of our power needs. To fully charge the battery bank, we will now switch on the generator for around one hour.