Schematic of a solar water heater hookup (C) - Lennox IndustriesRenewable Energy: Photo-Voltaic PV Module Electrical Power Shopping Guide - Solar & Renewable Energy Systems

  • PHOTOVOLTAIC POWER SYSTEMS - CONTENTS: Guide to buying photovoltaic power supplies for solar energy systems. Photographs of photovoltaic solar panel installations.Comparison of features of photovoltaic systems: thin film, conventional, and high efficiency photovoltaic panels, costs, features. Solar electrical systems: list of components, cost per watt, cost trends, comparison with other electricity prices. Solar Energy Articles from Solar Age Magazine- Renewable energy techniques for homeowners
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about buying, installing & troubleshooting photovoltaic systems on solar powered homes

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.

This article explains photovoltaic electrical power supply products used in solar energy systems.Sketch at page top courtesy of Lennox Industries. Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles including material reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

Our page top photograph shows a portion of an extensive photovoltaic solar panel array installed by Ortho McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc. (Johnson & Johnson), and located on Rte. 202 in Raritan, New Jersey. The system was completed in 2007. Photo courtesy of Paul Galow.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved.

Shopping Advice for Photovoltaic Power Supplies for Solar Systems

Photovoltaic panels on utility poles, Haddonfield NJ (C) Daniel FriedmanAs of January 2010, China dominates the production of both solar and wind renewable energy equipment, generators, and controls.

The New York Times reports that most of the wind turbines and wind energy being installed in the U.S. as well as most of the solar panels being used in the U.S. are being produced in China, and that G.E. (General Electric) makes nearly half the wind turbines used in the United States.

Our photo (left) shows photovoltaic panels installed on utility poles in Haddonfield, NJ, a community where extensive use of solar energy is supported.

U.S. President Obama has called for American Industry to step up its production of renewable energy equipment. Vestas, a Danish corporation, has completed the world's biggest wind turbine manufacturing facility, located in northeastern China, effectively transferring the latest turbine technology for wind turbine generators and turbine controls to that country.

China intends to produce 8 percent of its electricity generation by renewable energy by 2020, compared with the current 4% level in both China and the U.S. In China, wind energy remains 20-40% less costly than that produced from coal. But renewable energy costs continue to fall.

Historical & Current Prices for Photovoltaic Solar Panels

The question-and-answer article below paraphrases, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.

How Much Photovoltaic Power do I Need and How Much Should I Spend on Photovoltaic Power Supply

Question: How Much Photovoltaic Power Can I Buy for $11,000.?

I am building a 3000 square foot passive solar house in Aspen, CO, 1500 feet away from the local power company line. They want $11,000. (1985 prices) for an underground line to the house.

How much photovoltaic power can I get for that much money? My minimum power consumption is around 500 kWh/month. Maximum electrical energy consumption would be about 1000 kWh/Month. I have a good solar site and a 5-kW backup electrical generator. -- Tim Howe, Old Snowmass, CO.

Answer #2: Solar Energy Technology and Costs - Price per Watt (Current)

Photovoltaics in Surprise, AZ (C) Daniel FriedmanOur photo of rooftop mounted photovoltaic panels (left) shows an installation in Festival, AZ, outside Phoenix.

Three Photovoltaic Technologies: Thin Film, Conventional, & High Efficiency: efficiency levels and relative costs:

According to Leyden, by 2009 the cost of photovoltaic systems had fallen to one tenth of photovoltaic module prices (in dollars per Watt or $/Wp) in 1976, from about $42. per Wp in 1976 to $4.50 / Wp in 2009. (Source: Navigant Consulting).

More recent price estimates (Solarbuzz) trace the price per watt Wp from $5.40 Wp at the end of 2001 down to $3.60 USD per watt Wp by November 2010 in the U.S., and down to $3.20 EU per watt Wp in European Euros. The lowest prices we found (Solarbuzz) was $1.37 Wp for a 60-watt thin film solar module.

Experts indicate that the price of producing electricity from solar sources will probably cross over and then be less than the costs of electricity production by the conventional grid by about 2017.

Current Photovoltaic Efficiency levels depends on the type of collector installed:

  • Thin film Photovoltaics operate at roughly 9.5% Efficiency. (Typically also sold at a lower cost per watt than multicrystalline silicon solar modules or monocrystalline silicone modules).
  • Conventional Photovoltaic Solar Collectors operate at roughly 12.6% Efficiency
  • High Efficiency Photovoltaic Solar Collectors operate at roughly 19.3% Efficiency.

- Leyden, 2009.

Components of Price of Photovoltaic Solar Energy Systems

  • Solar Module Cost - quoted in price per watt or Wp as we described just above.
  • Solar Photovoltaic Inverter Cost - $0.72 USD per continuous watt (November 2010) (Solarbuzz)
  • Solar Photovoltaic System Battery Cost - $0.21 USD per output Watt Hour (November 2010) (Solarbuzz), note that not all installations make use of a battery
  • Solar Photovoltaic System Charge Controller Cost - $5.87 USD per Amp (November 2010) (Solarbuzz)

A Comparison of Solar-Based Electricity to Conventional Electricity Costs per Kilowatt Hour

For a non-expert it can be difficult to make sense of these various solar photovoltaic system component costs - they are not simply additive since they are not all expressed as cost per watt. Solarbuzz reported (November 2010) that the residential electricity produced using solar modules cost about $0.32 USD per kilowatt hour, and that commercial and industrial electrical costs were $0.22 and $0.17 USD per KWH.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes average retail prices of electricity by end use sector and by U.S. State. Quoting from the EIA's August 2010 data for average retail price for electricity for residential customers, the cost per kilowatt hour ranged from $0.08 (Washington State) to $0.29. (Hawaii).

The average electricity cost across the entire U.S. (August 2010) was $0.12 per KWH: in other words, in the fall of 2010, electricity generated by photovoltaic systems cost roughly 2.6 times the U.S. overall average price per KWH.

For areas where electrical energy cost is sufficiently above the U.S. average, solar-based systems can show a rapid payback.

Historical Solar Energy Costs: Solar Energy Costs in the Mid 1980's

Photovoltaic panel operating an outhouse vent fan (C) Daniel FriedmanOur photo (left) of photovoltaic solar panels atop an outhouse is from the Poughkeepsie NY Railroad Bridge rail trail crossing the Hudson River. This three-panel photovoltaic installation is sufficient to power interior lighting and a ventilating fan in this public toilet facility.

According to Solar Age technical editor Joe Kohler, of KLR Engineering, you should be able to buy an 840-peak watt photovoltaic power supply system, with an inverter, charge controls, meters, racks, installation, and 1200 amp-hours of battery storage for your $11,000. (at 1980's prices for photovoltaics).

You could expect to get about 200 kWh from this system in the best summer month, and close to 100 kWh in the dead of winter. With a very efficient refrigerator, florescent lights, and a gas-powered water heater and stove, you should be able to live quite well.

  1. For another $4000. you could buy half again as much photovoltaic power. (Again, these are 1980's prices). WIth moderate conservation and a 1260-watt photovoltaic electrical system, no one will know that you are not on the grid.
  2. Remember that you can expect to get state and federal tax credits of up to $7000. when you buy the system, so you could spend up to $18,000. for photovoltaic power (PV power) and still have a net cost about equal to what the electrical power company wants to charge to connect your building to the power grid. You would need to have large tax liabilities to take all the tax credits at once.

Also keep in mind that photovoltaic electrical power systems are modular and expandable. You could add photovoltaic solar panels as your budget permits and, at least until the end of 1985 in Colorado, photovoltaic electrical system installers could take tax credits again for add-on purchases.

Check with your state and federal tax authorities on current tax credits available for photovoltaic electrical systems as well as other passive solar design components.

Manufacturers of Photovoltaic PV Solar Modules

As of November 2010 we found the following manufacturers and websites for solar modules. Some of these manufacturers also produce solar cells. Countries represented among this list of solar module manufacturers include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Japan, Korea, Mexico, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom (UK), United States (USA). Generally all of these companies distribute their products world-wide.

Our detailed list of solar module manufacturers is found at SOLAR MODULE MANUFACTURERS.

Original article:

The link to the original Q&A photovoltaic solar panel article in PDF form immediately below is preceded by an expanded/updated online version of this article.


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