How much does a solar system cost these days ?

Solar power system can save you big
One of the main reasons people tend to not get very excited about the prospect of installing a solar energy system to their home is their perception of the costs involved. The truth is, over the long term, a solar energy system will pay for itself, and will actually generate you money in the form of lower utility bills, tax incentives, and selling back a proportion of the energy you produce but do not use to utilities companies.

How much you stand to make depends upon where in the US you live, how much sunshine you typically see, and how electricity costs you. Naturally, the more money you pay for your energy supply, the more money you will save when you switch to solar.

The costs involved depends upon what kind of system you install. You can even have solar panels installed for free by allowing a solar energy company to lease your roof space off you so they can install their panels there. They sell the electricity the panels generate back to you at a cost that's typically much lower than mains electricity, but you will not receive the tax breaks and long-term benefits available to you if you go down this route.

How much electricity do you use?

If you do buy your own panels, then you will need to buy enough to make your switch to solar worthwhile, and you make it worthwhile by calculating how much electricity you use. You really need 1 kW worth of solar panels for every $50 you pay in electricity every month, so if you pay $200 for your electricity per month, you are going to need a 4 kW solar panel system.

Each solar panel is worth around 250 to 300 W, so for a 2 kW system you will need eight panels, and for a 4 kW system, you will need sixteen. You will need to make sure you have sufficient roof space to install the system that you require.

Check out your options

As you may imagine, there are plenty of different manufacturers of solar panels, all having different standards of the efficiency of the panels they produce, with different costs as well. When you come to install a solar system, unless you decide to do it yourself, the company you choose to perform an installation will provide the panels for you, and will advise you on your options.

A 4 kW solar panel system will cost you between $10,000 and $11,500 to install. If you want to up the juice a little bit, a 5 kW system will cost between $12,500 and £14,000 to install. Don't forget, it's not just the panels you are buying – there's the wiring into your home electricity system as well, plus the cost of the installation itself. You can find out more about the cost of a solar panel system at

Typically, as soon as you have your system up and running, you will receive tax breaks in line with about 30 percent of the cost of your installation. Most solar panel systems pay for themselves within 8 to 10 years of installation via lower utility bills and tax breaks.

Don't forget, it's not just the financial cost you have to take into consideration – there's the continual cost in terms of damage to the environment if you continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels. Go solar and you'll be saving the planet, as well as saving dollars.

Clean solar energy is the future

Clean Energy from the Sun
The use of clean solar energy has soared since the millennium. According to figures from the International Energy Agency, the global of amount of solar PV (photovoltaic) energy was 1.4 GW (GW – Gigawatt = 1,000 megawatts = 1,000,000,000 watts) in 2000. By 2011 this had grown to roughly 67 GW, which is a 47,857% increase in only eleven years! More and more people are starting to understand that our reliance on fossil fuels cannot continue on at the current pace. Current predictions estimate that we will exhaust our planet's supply of oil by 2052, gas by 2060 and coal by 2088 – and once the supplies have gone, they have gone forever.

We are also starting to understand that our over-reliance on fossil fuels has caused irrevocable damage to our planet's environment. There was a “balance” created when, millions of years ago, lifeforms died, and the carbon they contained became buried deep underground. By digging up and burning the remains of those lifeforms in the form of fossil fuels, we've upset that balance by releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. As a result, we've seen the average global and sea surface temperature of the Earth rise by 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1900, with two thirds of that rise occurring over last thirty years. That may not sound like much, but every tiny rise in temperature has profound effects on our planet, such as the reduction in snow and ice, the rising of sea levels and more frequent extreme climate events.

Solar energy = Clean energy

Solar energy is a clean energy source, as it releases almost no greenhouse gases – gases such as carbon dioxide that help cause global warming – and produces very little in the way of waste. The sun's energy is sufficient to provide enough energy for the whole of mankind for an entire year, and not just once over, but over 8,000 times over! That's the equivalent of over 10 billions tons of oil!

Solar energy is also a versatile source of energy. The traditional method of collecting energy using PV or photovoltaic cells is expensive, as those cells contain a lot of silicon, and a single PV cell will need to collect light for between 8 and 10 years before it has collected the equivalent monetary value of energy as it cost to manufacture it. An alternative is high-temperature thermal solar technology, which works in the same way as thermal power, concentrating heat energy (the sun's rays) to heat water to very high temperatures, creating steam which is then used to power turbines.

Solar energy power plants

An increasing number of countries are waking up to the potential of solar energy as a clean, environmentally-friendly method of energy generation, and are building full-sized industrial solar energy power plants. France, Switzerland, Germany and the United States all now have several solar power plants, while the Amareleja plant in Portugal generates enough power to supply energy for 30,000 homes, and the Victoria concentrated solar power plant in Australia powers 45,000!

We may have done too much damage to our environment already, but at least if we further move towards the cleaner, emission-free energy solutions provided by solar, we may prevent the damage we have done from becoming any worse.

How do I choose the best solar PV system for me?

Choose the best solar PV system for your home If you go back twenty years, then choosing the best solar PV system would not have been difficult – because you wouldn't have had many options! Domestic solar panel manufacturers were few and far between, and companies willing to install a solar PV system for you would have been even harder to find.

Thankfully, the world has begun to wake up to the potential of solar as a clean, renewable source of energy, and both solar panel manufacturers and installers are much easier to find. Both of these factors have meant that the price of panels and installation has fallen sharply, particularly in the last five years or so, as the market has become much more competitive. Previously, German panels were seen as the PV panel of choice, but more and more Asian companies (particularly Chinese companies) are starting to produce panels that are just as efficient as their German counterparts.

When it comes to choosing the best solar PV system for you, there are three things you need to consider: how much energy you will be using, how much appropriate roof space you have, and how far your budget can stretch.

Factoring it all together

For a family of two adults and two children, if you want to generate enough power so you are in effect, “off the grid”, you are going to need a system worth between 5kWh and 10kWh. For a 5kWh system you're going to be looking at spending between $14,000 and $20,000 – a 10kWh system will put you closer to $30,000. As for the roof-space, for a 5kWh system you are looking at room for 10 panels, and of course 20 panels for a 10kWh system.

If this all sounds a bit too much for you, then don't worry as you can still install a 4kWh system for between $10,000 and $12,000, which will generate between half and two-thirds of the electricity your family uses on a daily basis. You will not be “off the grid” but you will at least be reducing your utilities bill by partially powering your home with solar power.

Why do quotes differ so much?

If you manage to arrange quotes from two different solar energy system providers, then you may be surprised that the figures they quote for the supply and installation of a solar PV system differ significantly.

The reason for this is likely to be the standard of the PV panels that they use – the more expensive the installation, the more efficient the panels. However, you need to make sure this is the case, and that the company with the higher price tag are simply not just trying to overcharge you. Ask each installer how much energy their system is expected to produce in the first year, and then divide the total cost that you have been quoted by the amount of energy produced. Whichever system gives the greater amount, then that is the system you should be going for, as – if the promises made by the installer are correct – that will provide you with the best value.

By making a careful choice, you'll end up with the most effective solar PV system for you, and you'll soon be benefiting from cleaner, greener solar energy.

The State of Solar Power in California Today

Photovoltaic Field in California
If there's one thing that California has an abundance of, its sunshine. It could easily have laid claim to the state motto 'The Sunshine State' if Florida hadn't gotten there first. Instead, Californians have to be content with 'The Golden State', and the 3,000 hours or so of sunshine per year that the people of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego have to put up with.

Naturally, there's potentially a massive amount of energy that could be tapped within those 3,000 annual hours of sunshine, and moves have been made in California to do just that. In a joint venture between the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, a campaign named 'Go Solar California!' has been instigated. The campaign has been set up to educate the people of California on the benefits of using solar power, as well as creating a central resource of information for any Californians who want to consider making solar power part of their lives, but don't really know where to begin.

The Go Solar California! Campaign has set itself two goals:

• To encourage Californians to install at least 3,000 megawatts of solar energy systems in their homes and businesses by the start of 2017.

• To install 585 millions therms of gas-displacing solar water heating systems by the start of 2018.

As part of this campaign, Go Solar California! has created the California Solar Initiative, which is a solar rebate program for investor-owned utilities customers, namely the customers of Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. The CSI program funds solar energy installations on existing homes, and existing or new agricultural, commercial, governmental and not-for-profit business premises. People who install and use solar energy within their homes will qualify to receive money-saving rebates.

California has something of a trail-blazing reputation when it comes to solar power. In 1978, the US Congress passed the Energy Tax Act which encouraged home-owners to invest in solar and wind energy technologies, as a reaction to the energy crises of the 1970s. In 1979 ARCO Solar commenced construction of the world's large photovoltaic (the means of generating power from sunlight) manufacturing plant in Camarillo, California, and in 1981 opened Solar One in Daggett California, the world's first large-scale thermal solar power plant. As of 2014, no less than four major solar power plants were under construction within the state of California:

• The 550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in Riverside County

• The 550MW Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County

• The 500MW Blythe Solar Power Project, also in Riverside County

• The 250MW California Valley Solar Roach in the Carrizo Plain

With global warming now being an undeniable factor in everyone's lives, and with traditional fuel sources such as fossil fuels rapidly diminishing, the time has really come when everyone ought to take responsibility for our planet's future, so it remains habitable for our future generations. Campaigns such as Go Solar California! and incentives such as the California Solar Initiative are one real leap forward in hoping to encourage as many people as possible to do just that.

So what are the components of a solar power system ?

Solar power components
When you see solar panels on someone's roof, you know that that person has invested in a solar power system, but have you ever stopped to think what extra components are needed for a system to work? Here is a complete guide to all the elements you need for a solar power system.

The Panels

PV (photovoltaic) panels are the most common type of panel, especially for residential installations. They are made from three layers:

* The N-Layer – silicon that is mixed with phosphorus

* The P/N Junction – pure silicon

* The P-Layer – silicon that is mixed with boron

When sunlight strikes the N-Layer, it knocks electrons loose. These electrons pass through the P/N junction (which is a one-way junction) into the P-Layer. This creates an electrical field that then drives the electrons that have been “knocked off” from the silicon, creating an electric current.

The Inverter

If you know your physics, then you will know that the electric current that is generated in this way is direct current (DC), which is like the electricity stored in batteries. However, mains electricity is alternating current (AC) where the flow of electricity changes direction 50 times a second. To make the electricity supplied by solar power suitable for use in domestic homes, a device is needed that converts DC current to AC current, and this device is called an inverter.

An inverter works in a very simple way, using a series of switches which are known as “solid state switches” that “flips” the DC current backwards and forwards 50 times a second, to create the AC current.

The Battery

Not all solar power systems have a battery, but some systems that produce more electricity than is needed for the building they are powering have a battery connected to store this excess energy. The stored energy can then be used when the solar panels are not providing enough energy, such as dark and rainy days.

The Distributor

The distributor is the device that distributes the AC power created by the inverter to the grid, and sometimes to both the home in which the solar power system has been installed and the grid. The output from the inverter is fed to a dedicated breaker in your house's electric panel, and then through to your home. If you are creating more power then you are using, then some of the power flows backwards and into the grid, and you receive a credit from your utilities company. If your system is not supplying enough energy for your home, then the shortfall is made up as usual by your utilities company.

These are the basic components of any solar energy system and as you can see, solar power is not a complex energy system – the cells create DC current, the inverter changes it to AC current, and the distributor controls the way in which power is distributed between your home and your utilities supplier.

Now you understand the components that make up a solar energy system, why not consider making the switch to the money-saving, cleaner and more environmentally-friendly source of energy that is solar energy ?

More Articles...

  1. What Are The Differences Between Residential and Commercial Solar Power Systems?
  2. If You Wish to Go Solar, Read This FAQs
  3. Can Switching to Solar Panels Save Me Money ?
  4. Why Use Solar Power These Days ?

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