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Published on February 4th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan

84

What Is The Current Cost Of Solar Panels?

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February 4th, 2014 by Zachary Shahan 

If you’re considering solar, and you’re like most people, one of the first questions you may ask is: How much do solar panels cost? Solar is a great idea for many people, not only to cut their utility bills but also to reduce their dependence on their utility, while also cutting their own personal footprint. The cost of solar is one major element in the decision to go solar, however.

I can very easily answer the question “How much do solar panels cost?” (see below), but I think the real question you’re asking is “How much will it cost to put solar panels on my roof?” That’s a more complicated question to answer, but I’ll explain in more detail and provide some useful perspective on that in the article below.

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost Today?

Solar panels themselves are now a global product. There’s tremendous variation in the cost of solar panels based on the type and efficiency of the solar panels. However, the type of panels used for residential solar installations is quite standard and the costs are basically set globally. That cost has fallen tremendously within the past few years — they’re now about half the price they were in 2008, and about 100 times lower than they were back in 1977. The latest US Solar Market Insight report (from Q3) put the price at $0.70/watt. A report from REC Solar shows that the price in Q2 as a bit higher — about $0.73/watt. Still, the price is very low compared to 2008 or 2009, and insanely low compared to 2000.

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost… On My Roof?

But when you ask “How much do solar panels cost?,” what I think you really want to know is how much it costs to put solar panels on your roof, right?

The bulk of the price of going solar is now the “soft costs” (installation, permitting, etc.) rather than the solar panel cost. Again referencing the latest US Solar Market Insight report, the average installed cost of a residential solar panel system was $4.72/watt. However, prices vary tremendously by region. “Common residential system prices ranged from less than $3.00/W to just above $7.00/W,” the Solar Energy Industries Association writes. The total price of a system, of course, varies tremendously based on the size of your roof and your electricity needs.

So, the key is really just to get an initial quote and then get a closer look at your situation from a local installer, who can give you a more specific quote.

How Much Does It Cost To Go Solar? & How Much Will I Save?

But when it comes down to it, what you probably really need to know is how much it will cost you to actually go solar. And a related question would be how much you will save in the long run.

In many places now, you can go solar for $0 or close to $0 down through solar leasing companies or through simple bank loans. Then you’re just paying monthly payments like you would on a house, car, or college loan. However, in this case, your payments are likely to be less than the amount of money you’re saving on your electricity bill. So, really, you’re not paying any more than you’re already paying for electricity… you’re saving money!

solar power savings How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

Studies have found that the average solar homeowner will save about $20,000 over 20 years from going solar. In three of the four most populous states in the country, that 20-year total is actually $30,000In Hawaii, it’s up above $60,000! And that’s just the average.

But, again, the financing options and the savings really depend on where you live and some personal circumstances (like how much you’re spending on electricity right now). So, what you really need to do is get a solar quote if you’re interested in finding out how much solar panels cost for you.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Bob_Wallace

    $4.59/watt for residential is out of date.

    End of second quarter, 2014 the price of residential solar fell to $3.74/Wdc in Q2 2014, versus the revised modeled costs for Q1 2014 of $3.83/Wdc – a 2.4% quarter-over-quarter cost reduction.

    Flat-roof non-residential system averaged $2.39/Wdc, representing a 5% decrease quarter-over- quarter.

    Utility systems in Q2 2014 averaged $1.81/Wdc, a 2.2% drop from Q1 2014. Costs for systems installed in Q2 2014 came in as low as $1.60/Wdc and as high as $2.05/Wdc. Low pricing reflects strong competition in new markets that has pushed component and EPC margins significantly downward. High pricng reflects systems with legacy PAs and higher-cost components like single-axis tracking.

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/research/ussmi

    Watch your salt intake if you have high blood pressure….

    • Bullfrog

      I asked for a non-advocate source of information. Thanks, I’ll wait for reply.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Advocate source?

        Anyone who publishes data you don’t want to believe is an advocate?

  • http://www.sunupzerodown.com/ Solar power

    Today nearly 75% of electricity is produced unsustainably from fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas. A solar system on your roof will greatly reduce the amount of pollution caused by people’s everyday activities. An average 10kw solar system is equal to planting 6000 trees, taking 50 cars off the road for a year, and recycling over 80 tons of waste. One of the best things about solar energy in terms of environmental benefits is that it produces almost no carbon emissions. This helps to rank it among the cleanest forms of energy on earth.

  • sheffezen

    hate when you read your writing play with SEO. just make it natural as normal. You are in the biggest authority site ever lol

  • Havel

    It is 7k in hong kong.

  • Ned

    Can you do this analysis again the same time next year? I want to see how much it’s come down since.

  • Andrew Zimmerman

    Wow, a whole article without the REAL COST of owning a solar panel. Also let’s forget about the government incentives: our tax dollars funneled into the pockets of people who pay for it!

  • ian

    my idea is use sea water pumped along a large pipe with solar energy charging the pumps & solar stills to produce desalinated water . each person or organisation using the taps to be responsible to maintain them …. ceo yobrain

  • Bob_Wallace

    Here are some current numbers from the Greentech Media 2nd quarter, 2014 solar review.

    Residential solar – average installed w/o subsidies = $3.74/W.

    That’s down from $4.91/W for Q1, 2013. Down 24% in 15 months.

    Utility solar – average installed w/o subsidies = $1.81/W.

    That’s down from $2.14/W in Q1 2013. Down 15% in 15 months.

    Solar panel prices averaged from the mid-70 cent/W range for retail sales to the mid-60 cent/W range for large purchases (solar farms).

    file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/US%20SMI%20Q2%202014%20Exec%20Summary.pdf

    • A Real Libertarian

      Bob, the link.

  • John Brian Shannon

    Hi Zachary,

    Let’s say that a utility company in a certain region of the country (Denver or LA, for example) foresees a need for 2.2GW of electricity within 10 years (due to residential and commercial / industrial growth).

    At these low solar rates, wouldn’t it be cost competitive for the utility company to simply offer distributed solar installations at very advantageous rates, not only applying gov’t subsidies, but perhaps applying their own discount, or offering zero interest solar system loans — as opposed to building a $14 billion dollar Vogtle-sized (#3+#4) nuclear power plant rated at 2.2GW?

    I realize that solar produces no power at night, but I note that peak demand happens in the daytime anyway.

    If 3.0GW of distributed solar was added to the grid, and even if the utility company was giving out once-in-a-lifetime rooftop solar installation deals, it should cost far less than the $14 billion (and 10 years of construction time) required for the 2.2GW Vogtle #3 and #4 reactors.

    And, no expensive fuel rods to replace every 3 years, and no nuclear security concerns to spend even more money on, and no spent fuel that must be babysat and cooled for the next 20,000 years.

    Not that I hate nuclear, but the tipping point must already be long passed IF we factor all costs into the equation.

    Wouldn’t you agree?

    By the time all the costs are totaled, not only could a utility have installed free rooftop solar for everyone in the city, they could also have bought everyone a new Tesla — IF all of the costs of nuclear power plant construction, nuclear security, fuel rod costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, labour costs and spent fuel storage costs are factored in. (I’m joking about the Tesla thing, btw)

    Obviously, I’ve deliberately left nuclear disaster/contamination, earthquake/reactor SCRAM costs out of the equation, as it’s too difficult to predict.

    Utility companies should be giving panels away for free (as long as they get installed in their territory, of course) rather than building $14 billion dollar nuclear power plants with their ultra-high running/security/spent fuel storage costs. IMHO!

    Cheers, JBS

  • patb2009

    with that sort of savings, why doesn’t everyone in Hawaii put solar up?

    • Kim Magnuson

      They are putting up solar as fast as they can, but they are also constrained by the utility company who loves to overcharge. They don’t want more solar users tied to the grid, as their monthly revenue drops considerably..even though their cost of producing the power drops during the daylight hours. It makes the utility (ours aren’t coops or govt. owned utilities) have a more difficult time getting rate increases from the PUC, because they can’t justify costs. They turn down lots of folks from getting on the grid and don’t allow grid tie. Hopefully, in the next couple of decades, things like the Edison battery, that last 60-80 years will make off grid so easy and trouble free that folks won’t need their electric company at all and will be independent, but politicians are being lobbied to slow the process down. Battery cost is the only inhibitor now, as nickel iron batteries would cost you about $10K for just an average house and you would have to get them from China or pay twice as much. Standard deep cycles require maintenance and last only about 5 years max.

      • Bob_Wallace

        That seems to have been resolved. The Hawaii utilities just announced a goal of 65% renewables by 2030.

        That’s an outstanding goal.

  • jules rosen

    am waiting for the gov / utilities to prepay for home systems and give you a ful rebate so they don’t have to invest in new plants

  • jules rosen

    Keep in mind some municipalities also figure solar cells as a capital improvement- that adds valueto your home and is TAXED yearly ( 1 percent average = $200 – 400 )

  • Frank T

    I am a bit confused on how to calculate the Return on Investment…

    Say I’m planning to use:

    35x of Yingli’s Panda 270W module which costs $448.4 per panel ($15,696.45 for all 35 panels), Which will be rated as a 9.8KW (STC) system or 6.8145KW at NOCT ( http://store.energymatters.com.au/yl270c-30b ). 1 year at 98% of the minimal rated power output, 10 years at 92% of the minimal rated power output, 25 years at 82% of the minimal rated power output.

    Additional info from my calculations:

    NOCT Pmax: 119.19W/m2

    Fill Factor: 77.66% @ NOCT, 76.4% @ STC

    Solar Cell Efficiency based on VocIscFF/Pin at NOCT: 7.6854% (Does this mean my actual module efficiency will be lower once the cell temperature hits the nominal 46C?)

    The reason why I choose 35 panels at NOCT is due to the amount of power I use, which is around 30.1kWh per day. I live in Southern California, Rowland Heights, 91748 to be specific. The solar insolation levels in LA (I’m assuming mine is the same) is 5.4KWh/m2/day. With 5 hours of peak sunlight every day. The cost of electricity being $0.215/Kwh during May 2014

    Based on the 2014 Q1 average US Average Residential System Price of $4.56 per Watt, the modules will cost roughly 16.8% of the entire system, so the total cost being $44,688 minus the 30% tax incentives equalling $31,281.6 for the entire system.

    Given those conditions…what is the best way to accurately calculate the amount of years it’ll take to break even and start generating profits?

    • Tired

      You are throwing a lot of numbers around that really aren’t necessary, and leaving out some that are.
      1. Are you financing the system, or paying full in cash?
      2. What power output do you need? I assume from your 30.1kWh/day statement that you are needing to produce that much power to break even. But you are asking when you start generating profits which is a term that could mean that you are looking to generate more power than you use. If that is the case, then you are looking for a whole different answer. If you are just wanting to know when the amount you have paid equals the amount saved, see below.
      3. What profits are you looking for exactly?
      4. What is your average cost per kWh over the entire year?

      Given that the above described system meets all of your needs at 92% power, and you pay in cash, then you should break even right around year 13 (actually month 10 of year 12 if everything is perfect). All I did to calculate that is divide what you paid overall for solar by what (I assume – 30.1*365*.215) you pay per year currently (factoring in that you sell 6% per year to the electric company at their going rate). If financed, you would need to factor in the interest rate of your loan (or compare how much you will be paying monthly).

      The question then could become about how much you could earn if you invested that same $31,000 in something else. But, as it sits, that discussion then becomes about future returns based on past performance which we all know may or may not come to fruition.

      The problem here is that we don’t know what calculations you are looking for. I am not sure what you want by “profit”, so it is hard to answer your question. Good luck to you, and I hope that helps.

  • Bob_Wallace

    The AU market is more mature. With AU’s very expensive electricity there was much more incentive to install solar. That created a large market and strong installation companies.

    Electricity in the US is not nearly as expensive and people in many markets don’t save nearly as much by installing solar. We’re just now seeing real competition in the installation business and our prices should come down fairly quickly.

    A lot of the cost of a solar system in the US is “customer acquisition”. Many people have to be sold. In places like Germany where solar is more popular customers call up and order a system,

    Another US cost is paperwork and inspections. Many of our local building departments are not yet efficient when it comes to permitting a solar system.

  • Bullfrog

    I got a quote for my 2,000 square foot house in the Dallas area and it was $85,000 installed. Financed over 30 years that comes out to $509/month. My electric bill is about $140/month on average. So over 30 years solar would cost over $100,000 more than electricity from the grid (gas, coal, wind).

    That’s WITHOUT subsidies. All the articles include the subsidies but I’m less interested in what will it cots ME as how much will it cost US. Somebody has to pay those subsidies, right? That “hidden” cost comes directly out of our paychecks in the form of federal and state taxes.

    Just FYI, for those that care about cost after subsidies, my $85K price tag was reduced to $48K with federal and local subsidies. Still over $250/month on a 30-year loan. But I refuse subsidies on principle.

    • Bob_Wallace

      $85k for how many watts of panels?

      What principle would cause someone to not take advantage of subsides?

      After all, those subsidies were created as a way to bring down the cost of solar so that it became affordable for all.

      If subsidies make solar affordable (seemingly not in your case) then by accepting them and installing solar you help others by helping to build and mature the solar industry.

      • Bullfrog

        You realize subsidies are real costs, in full, right? The principle of not taking subsidies is not having my neighbors pay for my power consumption. And the economic principle of cost analysis. Hiding the cost doesn’t make it cost effective, except to the person taking the subsidy. It raises the cost to society overall. Those are solid principles.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Your neighbors aren’t paying for your power consumption. They are investing in cheaper electricity for all.

          The way we get the price of solar systems down is to build the industry and that means that we have to help some people afford a system. As more are installed the industry becomes stronger and more efficient. And cheaper.

          $85k for a 10kW system is a joke. A very bad joke.

          US average (non-subsidized) price at the end of 2013 was $4.59/watt. $45,900 for a 10kW system.

          $32,130 after the federal 30% subsidy.

          • Bullfrog

            Sorry Bob but you sound like a salesman. My experience trying to go PV is that its more expensive by about $400/month compared to my regular electric bill. I appreciate your enthusiasm for solar though. I’d love to have panels on my house providing free renewable energy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Bullfrog – I can assure you that I’m not a salesman in the sense that I work for a company and make money by getting people to purchase stuff.
            I am a salesman in the sense that I’m very concerned about the future of our planet, about what we’re doing to our children’s and grandchildren’s lives and do what I can to move us away from fossil fuels. I’m hawking a better future.

            The prices you have been quoted for solar are very much higher than the national average. The price I gave you is from Greentech Media which has a major research division. And their numbers are very close to the prices produced by other organizations.

            There are a few places in the country where solar is very high, perhaps you live in one of those. Places where the industry is very underdeveloped and there’s not enough competition to bring prices down.

            I’d suggest you shop a bit harder.

            And I’d suggest you rethink subsidies. We, taxpayers, subsidize all sorts of emerging technologies. The money generally goes to companies, not individuals, so we’re not so used to seeing them up close and personal. Let’s take a look at energy subsidies…

            Over the first 15 years of these energy sources’ subsidies, oil and gas got 5 times what renewables got (in 2010 dollars) and nuclear energy got 10 times as much. (Most of the renewable subsidies went to corn farms for ethanol, not wind, solar and other renewable electricity technologies.)
            Between 1918 and 2009 oil and gas received average annual subsidies of $4.86 billion. (92 x $4.86 billion = $447 billion)

            Between 1947 and 1999 nuclear received average annual subsidies of $3.50 billion. (53 x $3.50 billion = $185.6 billion)

            Between 1980 and 2009 biofuel received average annual subsidies of $1.08 billion. (29 x $1.08 billion = $31 billion)

            Between 1994 and 2009 renewables received average annual subsidies of $0.37 billion. (15 x $0.37 = $5.6 billion)
            http://www.dblinvestors.com/documents/What-Would-Jefferson-Do-Final-Version.pdf
            Now, it’s not clear that the subsidies for oil, gas and nuclear have done us all that much good. Their prices keep rising. Perhaps subsidies kept prices from rising faster and higher.

            But the subsidies that renewables have received have been wildly successful. Thirty years ago wind-electricity was $0.38/kWh – it’s now less than $0.05/kWh. Thirty years ago solar panels were around $100/watt – now they are less than $1/watt.

            You, as an individual, are in a better position than are many Americans. You’ve got either the capital or the credit to install solar on your house. With a subsidy (and finding a better price) you can put panels on your roof and pay less per month for your electricity.

            If a lot of people in your position install solar then the price will come down and people who are less well off can also afford a system.

            Right now our residential solar price is averaging $3.59/watt. Rooftop solar is being installed in the UK, Germany and Australia for around $2/watt. We’ve got some cost cutting to do and that will take more people installing and building the industry.

          • TonyEdwards2

            Bullfrog, you pay an average of $140 month or $1680 annual for electricity. You can have your electricity paid for free (in a way) by just simply taking $21,000 and putting it into an S&P Index fund preferably a 401k or SEP, IRA. Just want to show there may be better ways to invest your money.
            Over the next 30 years using historical data, you should return roughly 8% average compounded interest, thus your electricity is paid for plus you will $211,000 left in the bank when you retire just from this one investment alone! Minimum rate of return first few years average is $1680 then goes up from there as interest accumulates. This compared to your paid out of pocket for electricity, even with rate hikes, would likely be around $100,000. I realize the investment is a savings calculator without any real capital, but if you look at it as your solar fund that you do not touch, then it can be visualized differently. Remember other $ amounts can be used. A $15,000 S&P investment would yield $150,000 in 30 years!

          • jules rosen

            But its all taxed and utilities ONLY go up in cost .

          • TonyEdwards2

            Taxes or not you still come out ahead on a long term investment vs Solar. Plus, my scenario was using a tax sheltered investment such as IRA, SEP. Even if your utilities double in cost your investment fund would be substantially better. I’m not discounting the fact that if solar comes down another 30 to 50% in cost it will then be worth it. Which I believe will happen within 5-10 years.

          • Cbish

            Tony, One important thing you neglected to calculate is the federal and state tax liability on the 8 per cent return on invested capital compared to the tax free benefit on the savings on electricity- there is zero tax liability for the electricity savings. The savings from solar is just like tax free income.
            The old adage a penny saved is a peeny earned should be rephrased a penny saved is a penny and a half earned.

          • TonyEdwards2

            If you consider the monthly after tax money you need to pay your standard utility bill then compare it what you lose from one lump sum for solar, then the numbers are very close after 30yrs of compounding. I would still like to see a 30-50 pct reduction in solar cost. When the utility companies starting charging higher access fees to solar users your going to need that extra savings to make up for the investment loss..

          • Burnerjack

            Great idea, but one point should be made here: Concerning investing, it is wise to keep in mind that “Past is not prologue”.
            There are many forces in play concerning investments.
            Your time horizon is key in deciding what to do. If you were planning on retiring in 2008 or 2009 you would have had to make major adjustments with little room to recover. However, in general you are correct. The key difference is the Solar Scenario is fairly fixed. You know what you bought, what you paid and what the results should be. With investing, you hope your fund managers deliver, while most don’t even reach market parity (of course you STILL pay for their time and overhead). You also hope the markets don’t take a catastrophic crap. With the advent of “Quantitative easing”, There will be another shoe to drop. The question is “when”. “Bird in the hand worth two in the bush”?

          • Kim Magnuson

            Bullfrog.
            I don’t know why, in TX, where wages are not famous for being high, somebody quoted you $85K for a solar system for a 2000 sq ft. house. My house in Hawaii is 1800 sq ft and I have three quotes all very close to $20K before subsidies. If you have electric hot water, then the most prudent thing is to do solar hot water, and this will probably drop your bill by 30% to just over $100/mo. Could you post your kwh cost? You almost sound like you work for an oil company. Even for a 10kw system, which is far more juice than most people use, you were quoted $8/watt. Mine is 5kw system at $20K or $4 watt grid tie turn key. I am in the process of changing heated water to solar and that will drop considerably. We have the most expensive rates in the nation for juice here. Also, your calculations were based on the fact your utility company won’t raise prices for 20 years, but your solar array will still pump out the kwh as long as the sun shines. Anyhow, if you can, get more bids, because you were way overcharged.

          • belay

            I live in Arizona I own 2300 Sq ft home. My total cost to install solar panels was 34500 before federal and state tax . my electric bill is Zero. I do not understand what you are talking about. Burger king just move their headquarter to Canada to avoid US tax but when the average middle tax payer gets a tax credit for doing good for our planet and country you have a morality issue.

          • Bullfrog

            Three things:
            –$35,000 financed over ten years is $399 per month. (my electric is about $140/month on avg)
            –You still have an electric bill
            –You spent taxpayer money on your own property

            Those are all problems for me. I am getting another two quotes next week. One from a leasing company. We’ll see if they can come close to a 15 year roi.

          • Michael

            I’m not selling in your area so don’t think this is a sales pitch, BUT, we regularly sell systems with a payback under 7 years and a ROI of over 13%. You need to get more quotes.
            And, by the way, that is based on all American made panels and figured without subsidies. We sometimes can get to 4.1 year payback including subsidies.

          • Bullfrog

            Thanks for the reply. My intention is to get more quotes and eventually have panels.

            A couple questions:
            1. What’s a decent pre-subsidy price for a true 10kW system installed on a standard asphalt shingle roof? Roof is inverted V-shaped with front slope facing South and large trees obstructing about 30 degrees of sky to the West.

            2. Is it better to buy now or wait ~5 years for the prices to come down?

            3. Will golf ball to baseball size hail and high wind damage the panels? We get that about once per ~three~ years in Dallas area. If so then insurance costs a significant factor?

          • Bob_Wallace

            The national average for a residential solar system was

            $3.74/watt at the end of the 2nd quarter, 2014. According to Greentech Media, who does a lot of price researching.

            That doesn’t mean you’ll find someone in your area that will install for that amount. It may be that there’s not enough competition where you are to bring the price down. Yet. I’d shop. And get some installers bidding against each other if the prices seem too high. The installers in your area are paying about the same for components are are the installers in the lowest cost areas.

            If you wait five years you’ll be five years further from payoff. And, short term, the federal subsidy probably makes it better to get a system and a discount. Perhaps the industry will have adjusted to the subsidy going away five years from now, but I’d bet we’re going to see a temporarily leveling off of costs for a while when the subsidy disappears. To wait? Hard call.

            I’d talk to your insurer and see what they have to say. And if what you hear is not good then talk to installers and see if there’s a company that might be a bit more solar friendly.

            You might want to check out the videos on this page that show stress, load and impact testing. The big hail stone one is impressive.

            http://southcoastsolar.com/news/article/how-do-solar-panels-hold-up-to-wind-and-hail

          • Louie

            You keep making up ridiculous numbers:

            1) $8.50/W for your system is RIDICULOUSLY HIGH
            2) Your 2000 sq ft house doesn’t need a 10kWh system
            3) You are comparing a 15yr financing rate on a system that will last for 30 years
            4) You ignore the fact that electricity rates and your monthly bill will increase every year

            In short I can only assume one of three things, a salesman tried to sell you a system that was far larger and far more expensive than you needed or two you are making stuff up to make solar look bad or three you simply don’t understand.

            You don’t mention what utility you are using or what your annual kWh consumption is but from your average bill and state you probably only need a 5kWh system and at $4/W installed that is $20k before subsidies and $14k after the federal tax credit.

            Finally, when you get a tax credit you aren’t spending TAXPAYER money on your home, you are KEEPING your OWN tax dollars and spending them on your home.

            Have a nice day

          • TonyEdwards2

            Bob Wallace, I am all for going Solar, but if I invested $32,000 in an S&P index fund I would have over $150,000 in 20years, or $322,000 in 30 years. How is solar a good deal if I am only saving a 10k or 20k over 20years then have to buy a new system? Index historically returns 8pct or more.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you can shelter the earnings from tax and if you don’t consider inflation.

            Furthermore, I don’t know why one would need to purchase a new system after 20 years. Our oldest solar panels are now 40 years old and were producing over 95% of original output at age 35. (Panels mounted in high UV areas such as high deserts will degrade faster but still should be well over 80% at age 40.

            Worst case, a new inverter and those are rapidly dropping in price.

          • Louie

            You neglect the stream of money you are paying in electric bills in your calculations as well as ignoring the fact that you don’t have to take $32k out of your savings, you can finance the system. Comparing an uncertain rate of return in the stock market is dishonest, compare it with the cost of money which is fixed and far below the numbers you are using.

        • Dropandgiveme20

          rebates and incentives amount to 45% of the costs

        • Jarod Sholtz

          You removed the cost of solar subsidies for your calculation, but neglected to remove the cost of coal subsidies. The difference is where the subsidy is applied, which doesn’t matter if you are considering total cost before subsidies.

          • Bullfrog

            That’s almost a good point, except solar plants get huge subsidies for construction and operation too, in addition to subsidies on the consumer side. In fact, Solar plants get a much larger percentage of their construction costs subsidized than coal and gas plants.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A solar farm gets 2.5 cents per kWh for their first ten years of operation. Given that the farm might operate for more than 40 years the subsidy is in the neighborhood of a half penny per kWh.

            The external costs for burning coal, which we taxpayers cover, are in excess of ten cents per kWh.

            1/2 a penny vs. more than 10 pennies.

            BTW, by the end of 2016 solar farm subsidies will likely have disappeared as will rooftop solar subsidies. The taxpayer subsidies for coal will keep on going year after year after year….

          • Bullfrog

            Solar farms get subsidies for construction, approximately half the cost of construction in grants and tax exemptions, and the rest is funded with government guaranteed loans. $13B since 2009. Ivanpah has already used up over a billion of government money and is asking for another half billion.

            They also get rate setting benefits by the states, especially in California. So another portion of the costs are paid by consumers.

            My point being that the solar industry gets more govt subsidies per watt than coal or gas, by a wide margin.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Solar farms get subsidies for construction, approximately half the cost of construction in grants and tax exemptions, and the rest is funded with government guaranteed loans”

            Link?

            “My point being that the solar industry gets more govt subsidies per watt than coal or gas, by a wide margin.”

            That may be your point, but it’s clearly incorrect.

    • Me Oh My

      They’re trying to cheat you. Get 2 more bids.

      • DallasTexas

      • Bullfrog

        Nope. That’s what they cost. I’ll get another bid but don’t expect it to be any different. You realize this is cost WITHOUT subsidy, right?

      • Bullfrog

        I just checked another site, Home & Garden TV and they quote a 13kW system in LA having a pre-subsidy cost of $94K which is right in line with the quote I have, mine is a little less. Articles like the one above are not honest. If so everyone would have these systems on their roof. I want one but its too expensive.

        • Bob_Wallace

          $7.23/watt in LA? Something is very stinky.

          LA as Los Angeles or as in Louisiana? If SoCal you should be finding installers at or below the national average of $4.59/watt. There’s a community group in the area that was doing group buys and installing for (IIRC) under $3/W.

          • Me Oh My

            My neighbors in Los Angeles just had panels done – 1 by SolarCity and the other by SunPower.

            Both were a bit over $4 before tax credits. 20 panels and 24 panels.

          • KR

            My friend just had his house in Huntington Beach (south of LA) done with SunPower panels for $32k BEFORE incentives… $22k after. His estimate shows a projected solar cost of $281 vs. $2600 electric for 1 year. His last month’s bill was $.93 and that is WITH A PLUGIN ELECTRIC car being charged. @jeffbullard:disqus it does seem like your are getting screwed.

          • Bob_Wallace

            $32k for how many watts?

    • Techngro

      I assume you pay a decent amount in taxes every year. I think you should see the subsidy as a way of getting back some of your hard earned money.

      Look at it this way. There are plenty of people who don’t pay taxes at all and get subsidies in the form of social services (welfare, section 8, etc.). So I don’t think you should feel bad, as a person who actually pays taxes, in getting a tax break or subsidy to save yourself some money in the long term.

      • http://fare.tunes.org/ Faré

        You don’t understand, @Techngro — getting the subsidy is one thing, financing an intrinsically lossy operation is another thing, and intrinsically immoral: you’re pouring hard-earned taxpayer money directly into a sinkhole. @Bullfrog is right that, whether he takes the tax credit or not, he should not make an intrinsically bad economic decision.

        • A Real Libertarian

          financing an intrinsically lossy operation is another thing, and intrinsically immoral: you’re pouring hard-earned taxpayer money directly into a sinkhole.

          Does that include the subsidies for coal, oil, nukes and gas?

          Because that $140 per month is going to be a lot higher when taxpayers don’t prop up the utility system.

          Add in the fact that $8.50 per Watt is double what the average price is in America, and that America pays double what other countries (Australia, Germany) do…

          You can see the problem here, right?

        • Bob_Wallace

          “financing an intrinsically lossy operation is another thing, and intrinsically immoral: you’re pouring hard-earned taxpayer money directly into a sinkhole.”

          You’ve got that right!

          We pour millions of dollars every day into the sinkhole that is coal.

          The external cost of burning coal is extremely high. Simply tallying public health impacts, coal costs the United States economy $140 billion to $242 billion a year.

          http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/tallying-coals-hidden-cost/

          Thank goodness that our investments in wind and solar are paying off and giving us very affordable alternatives to the fossil fuels which are robbing taxpayers blind.

    • Dropandgiveme20

      did the guy tell you any thing about EFFICIENCY? thats always the thing you should do. newer more efficient appliances, TVs, Replace light bulbs with LED. less power you need the smaller the system, motion sensors to turn off lights when you leave the room, 2,000 ft2 of house means nothing it is how much you are using and how much you can produce…..

  • james braselton

    hi there i found some solar power that can provide 15 kw too 51 kw expenceive

  • whammami

    I was a bit disappointed in the beginning to see that the Author Mr Shahan did mention only the cost of the installation and not the cost of the Panel. He did mention the savings ranging from 10k to 60k but we really don’t have a clear picture on really how can a panel go for with what efficiency. The title did not reach its objective.

    • dcard88

      Installed cost would ALWAYS ( and did) include the cost of the panels and everything else one would need to connect to the grid.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “The latest US Solar Market Insight report (from Q3) put the price at $0.70/watt. ”

      Not only did you fail to read this sentence, apparently the ten people who uprated your comment also failed.

  • mearme

    are solar panels available for business property. if so, are there tax rebates?

  • Dave Nantz

    If you lease the system you lose the tax deduction

    • Bob_Wallace

      The subsidy goes to the owner/leasing company. That lets them offer you a cheaper lease price.

      • Burnerjack

        Is that really true Bob? Or do they offer a competitive price regardless and pocket (hopefully for them) the difference. Not saying your wrong, but I’ve witnessed a false cost/price relation in marketing for many decades. Example: the phone companies used to tell people if they stopped using 411 their cost would go down. Fact: The phone rates were set regardless, if they could get rid of a large number of phone assistance operators, the profit margin increases while the rates remain on the same trajectory.
        I just wonder if its the same sort of scenario here.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m assuming some competition in the market.

          If there’s competition then companies can’t pocket an unreasonable amount of profit.

          We’ve still got some markets without adequate competition and installers are charging as much as $8/watt.

  • disqus_l4zSoQqrpI

    Seems like in the U.S. all the barriers to going solar exist past the hardware.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Yes, we’ve got two areas where savings could be made. One is “customer acquisition”, the amount spent on selling the product. We’re still in a situation in the US where solar has to be sold. It’s cheap enough in places like Germany and Australia that people call up and ask to buy.

      Another is permitting costs. We (depending on the location) require a lot more paperwork and inspections than are required in less expensive places.
      Customer acquisition costs will go down as demand grows. Permitting costs are being addressed and some states have already cut costs

  • pvcalc

    In order to get a quite good idea of the financial aspects of an installation see for example the calculator http://pvcalc.org/pvcalc . It’s sophisticated enough to be used for valuation of solar power installations.

  • fudfighter

    The real question is “Is it worth switching to solar generated power?” The answer depends greatly on your situation, economically, geographically, and politically. It’s still a significant up-front investment, whether that comes out of your own pocket or you find a bank that may, possibly, with much convincing, lend it to you. The payback period – more accurately, the break-even point – or how long will it take to recuperate the cost of ownership, varies extremely. In sunny climates where electricity prices are rising, switching to solar basically locks in your electricity price and the system can pay for itself in a few years. But if you’re still connected, i.e. a grid-tied system, your utility company may charge you more for using less, unless they have buy-back agreement, which most in my area do not. Also with grid-tied, if the grid goes out, you can’t use your array anyway, unless you have a means of completely isolating it from utility power.
    So, is it worth switching? Although the price of the components have dropped over the years, this is still a very complicated question.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan
    • Tony Reyes

      SMA has inverters that lets you use some of the power your array is generating (1500 Watts) even when the grid goes down. There is a physical switch on the inverter that lets you isolate your home from the grid while still complying with NEC code safety requirements. Surprisingly, the cost of the inverter is nearly the same as a standard inverter. I expect this feature to become standard across all residential inverters soons.

    • Jim Seko

      I live in St. Louis which has 75% as much Sun hours as Los Angeles. The cost of our mostly coal supplied electricity is low. The local solar installers know they must install at a lower cost and manage to beat the US average installed cost by wide margin. It also helps that Ameren Missouri pays $1.50 per Watt in addition to the federal 30% tax credit. Most Ameren customers are not aware of these rebates and tax credits which will expire 12/31/2016. I commend Zachary Shahan for writing this article because informing the public about money saving solutions to climate change is super important. The best way to see what you can save in dollars is to get a few quotes.

    • Dropandgiveme20

      the systems pay for themselves in 8-10 years, many have warranties lasting up to 30 years and require very little maintenance. Then you have rebates from both the federal government and the state, and some utilities offer rebates as well. paying for about 45% of the cost for a residential install. then deciding to go grid tied will also help, Utilities will either pay you for or bank the excess electricity you produce to of set the time when you use more than you produce . in any case you save money.

    • Johnny tuenmo

      Hey fudfighter In the most part you have to look at the rate you are paying for utility in your area and the size and orientation of your roof. where do you live? I work in the solar industry. do you want me to help you check it out for you?

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