I was wondering if anyone here knew of any good Solar Power infomation sites/booklets. Something to explain the current best options, and how much you should expect to pay for them, what to look for, what sort of maintanance/replacement costs you should expect?
Home power magazine is a good source for nuts and bolts and cost analysis.
Expect to replace controllers and inverters after about 15-30 years, panels about 50- 75 years and batteries... depends, lead 4-12 years heavy use and abuse causes advanced wear, lithium 12-20 years same as with lead life spans are not panning out as many hoped, nickel iron- 25-50 years with maintenance.
A maintenance budget allowing 2.5 batteries and an inverter over 25 years could work for many.
These systems as a simple grid tie are almost maintenance free as compared to a car or lawnmower or even an easychair, pretty boring for those who like maintenance.
Expect to pay 1.75-$2 per watt if you do it yourself. To figure watts, take your billed kwh for the year and divide by 365 then multiply your average peak sun hours, multiply by 1.2... thats it. Adjust for non ideal mounting situations and artificial horizon.
Keep it simple, panels, mounts, pass throughs, enclosures, disconnects power electronics, dont skimp on wire and purpose built enclosures.
Hello, I just registered to this forum so that I could say, " Backwoods Solar" . They are out of Idaho and have been in the solar business for a long time. Purchasing from them gives you lifetime support. I would call and talk to them. It probably isn't the cheapest, unless you figure out what cheap is. Good luck!
Thanks Frank Li, that is a great summery. Will check out those forums as soon as I have a second. The one thing you never did mention is the panels themselves? Do they wear out? Or do they just need to be replaced whenever you get extreme winds and or hail? Or are they pretty industructable?
The solar panels are tough stuff. In the reply i used 45(proven)-75 years as a possibe service life. They are less like brake pads and more like a door-stop as far as replacement. Glass seems fragile, but composite roofing will wear out before your array at least twice and hail will likely damage your roof and siding well before you saw module breakage as a result.
The video is impressive. I have only had to replace one module for a customer, since 2004! Someone yanked a pv wire conductor out of its terminal inside of a module junction, so installer error. This is at Michigan, we get high winds, hail, daily temperature extremes and heavy ice and snow.
Backwoods solar and new england solar electric catalogs were great learning tools for offgrid power and services. Altestore.com has a great educationl section and they review equipment.
Over the years i have found homepower magazine to be the best overall source for equipment reviews and system examples and analysis based on actual builds. They would list actual project costs down to fasteners and fill dirt! People let you see how they did it, what worked and what did not etc., many times with progressive images of the project and a window into other aspects of off grid and renewables based living systems.
If you get the backissues archive or even some hard copy backissues to add to your library it will likely be of use.
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Wires/Breaker/Panel = $0.25 per watt or $2,500
Railing/Support = $0.25 per watt or $2,500
Solar Panel = $1 per watt or $10,000
Charge Controller = $1 per watt or $10,000
Battery = $1 per watt or $10,000 (with 2 replacement over 25yrs for a real cost of $3/W or $30,000)
Inverter = $1 per watt or $10,000
Labor = $3 per watt or $30,000
Backup Propane/NG Generator = 2kW generator for $1 per watt, for when there is bad weather.
Propane/NG Tank (Heating + Backup + Cooking) = ???
Personally I only use about 3kWHr per day vs the avg of 30kWhr so a system for me would cost 1/10th. But maybe you have a workshop and so you might need a system that is 3times the avg american house. If it is grid tied you can ignore the cost for batteries and you wouldn't need both charge controllers and inverters, only one. You will have to replace your roof and the entire system every 25yrs, except for the battery. that needs to be replace 2times aka every 8yrs for real cost of $3 per watt. The batteries similar to labor cost as much as the rest of the system combined (Inverter+Charge Controller+Solar Panel+Support+Misc). So if you are trying to save some cash, you now know where to save money, do most of the labor yourself and use less battery power at night so that your battery last longer. It doesn't matter if you use Lead Battery or LiFePO4 batter over the 25yr lifetime it works out to be about the same. So people get hang up on the battery or solar panel tech/efficiency but for the amount of actual usable wattage it all works out to be the same cost, it like buying a $2,000 Dell or HP computer it all works out to be about the same power, the only difference might be customer service.