Solar Power – Is Solar Power Worthwhile?

June 2, 2010

in Energy, Solar Power

The cost of a solar system to power or heat your home can run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $50,000 or more. The wide range of investment required is the result of many factors.

The amount of sunlight received in different areas varies considerably. Some places like Santa Fe, New Mexico get sunshine an average of 325 days of the year. By contrast, Seattle has only 58 clear days, 82 days that are partly cloudy and 226 days that are cloudy. In the first case, a solar system would provide ample electricity most of the year. In Seattle’s case, the efficiency would be much lower. For those living in Seattle, many more modules would be required to get the needed amount of electricity. That raises the cost.

Costs vary widely, too. Some homes can be covered with panels for as little as $5,000, though the average is closer to $16,000. Larger homes, obviously, require more panels. Usage varies too. If the home remains connected to the utility company grid the cost is lower since some power is still coming from the grid. Having a battery storage system can easily double the cost.

There are factors that can offset those costs. Federal programs provide tax rebates for those who choose to install a solar power system. Either direct payment or lowered property taxes are the usual methods of reimbursement. Some states have similar programs.

Different solar power system vendors provide their own discounts throughout the year. Some have ‘winter sales’, some agree to match or beat any price from another competitor. Like any product, it’s possible to get a good deal, even on quality material.

At the same time, improvements in manufacturing have lowered the cost of producing the equipment while increasing its efficiency. A wide variety of PV (photovoltaic) modules, batteries, charge controllers, inverters and other components are available today. Most work on the same principle as the others, but like any product some businesses do a better job of manufacturing and marketing than others.

On the other side of the ledger, the cost of electricity from utility companies continues to rise in most areas and there appears to be no end in sight. Rising oil prices, continued heavy regulation of utility companies, the unnecessary death of the nuclear power industry and other factors all contributed to high prices that continue to increase.

At some point in balancing all those factors, which is different for people with different circumstances and points of view, it’s worthwhile to implement a solar power system. Once that choice is made, if carried out properly, most are glad they did. Solar power systems are long-lived, easy to maintain, cost-effective and produce or contribute to minimal pollution.

No single answer to the question posed by the title fits all circumstances. Like most things, implementing a solar power system for your home involves trade offs. In the end, only you can decide whether it’s worthwhile.

Whatever the motives that different individuals bring to the decision, they share a common result: safe, clean, low-cost power. And everybody needs that.

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