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solar-power-installation-breakdown-thumbSolar Power Installation Breakdown
Posted on 2009-10-03
There is a great deal of misinformation circulating about the cost of installing a solar power system, specifically a roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) one. The fact is, $25,000-$60,000 to bu...
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Posted on 2010-03-12
Solar power systems are a great way to reduce your energy costs dramatically, while adding a great deal of value to your property. Solar power has come a long way over the last decade. Sol...


 

Solar Power Installation Breakdown

There is a great deal of misinformation circulating about the cost of installing a solar power system, specifically a roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) one. The fact is, $25,000-$60,000 to buy a solid, sensible PV system for your family’s home is a lot of money, so it is quite reasonable for prospective buyers to want to know where the money gets spent, and how.

It is important to remember that you are essentially pre-paying your electric power for the next 25 or so years. Your investment up front will be repaid to you in dependable solar energy as long as you have an honest, knowledgeable solar installer do the work for you). For this article, we will discuss the installation of a 3kW system, which is the average size for a family of three or four in a 2,500 sq. ft. house.

An Overview

Here’s a full breakdown of component prices, let’s look at the overall picture seeing how big each “slice” of component or labor is compared to the whole. With many years of experience and information coming in from all over the world, solar-related non-profits and trade associations have come up with some pretty accurate numbers about residential installations:

Complete systems installed: $8-$10/watt

  • 1 kW System: $11-12,000
  • 2 kW System: $16-20,000
  • 3 kW System: $24-30,000 (present example)
  • 4 kW System: $31-35,000

Components:

  • Solar modules: $4-7/watt, approximately 60% of total cost
  • Mounts, racks, wiring, etc.: $0.75-1.50/watt, 15% of total cost
  • Inverter: $0.50-1/watt, 10% of total cost
  • Installation: $1-3/watt, 15% of total cost

The Heart of the System – Solar Panels

The PV panels themselves are more efficient than five years ago, and will be more efficient five years hence. Still, you want to build today, or quite soon, so you would be looking at the present range of PV panel prices, which is from $4 to $7 per watt. A Kyocera or other major name panel rated at 224W is selling in mid-2009 for approximately $1100, or $5 per watt. For an example 3kW system, you’re looking at 14 of these, or $15,400.

The solar panels make up some 60% of the total cost, because the cells themselves are made primarily of pure silicon (which is expensive) and take a good deal of time to make. This is the area in which advancing technology will have the greatest impact in the mid- and long-term, and since it is the biggest cost component, total system prices will come down as solar panel prices do.

The Mounts and the Inverter

Depending on your roof’s pitch, constructions, materials and condition, mounting hardware can be a straightforward and reasonable expense. If you have to use angle mounts on the roof or ground, or even pole-mounted arrays, additional expenses may be incurred. Overall, roughly $2,000-$5,000 (depending on complexity, and system size) can be spent getting your PV panels positioned to capture the energy your home needs.

Your inverter, which can cost anywhere from $1900 to $3500 for the home we’re discussing, comes to about 10% of the total cost. You want a unit that will last as the life of your system.

Labor Costs

Even though labor is a healthy 15% of the total cost, you should not count on doing the work yourself. This is not a weekend warrior kind of project, but a painstaking project requiring several different kinds of expertise. Construction, masonry, electrical work and miscellaneous other tasks will challenge even the most experienced home handyman. For this kind of installation—the source of your family’s energy for the next three decades—you want the best help you can get.

This help can come in the form of between three and six workers, but for our example home of 2,500 sq. ft., five workers could get the job done in a matter of two or three days (16-24 hours). Carpenters, system installers and an electrician would work in concert to prepare the roof, install the mounts, set up the panels, complete the wiring and flight-test the system.

However you calculate it, a solar power system is a win-win-win situation. You win, the installer wins—and so does the planet, thanks to your decision to “go solar.”

For more information visit Lazar’s Solar Guide which offers a detailed and broad overview of Solar Power technology.