Solar photovoltaic systems are increasingly common, and you may be asking yourself if you should install a PV solar system in your future home, and how much it would cost.
The tips below are guidelines to help you decide.
PV systems are now much cheaper than they were some years ago. They are more than just a way of offsetting several dozens of tons of CO2 over their estimated lifespan.
Regardless of the economics of the different PV systems, keep in mind this rule: the financial advantages of your systems depends largely on basic energy improvements involving lighting, cooling systems, appliances and very high levels of insulation and air sealing. They will reduce the energy needs and enable cheaper (and smaller) PV systems.
Solar electricity is now competitive with fossil-fuel generation in many parts of the world.
In the US, a 5 kW installed PV system may cos about $20.000 (and can be installed by a solar leasing company, with no upfront costs), but all depends significantly on the solar potential of your region and home.
It can be a good investment, as long as your home meets basic requirements (those mentioned above).
Obviously, there are situations where buying green electricity (coming from large wind systems, or other renewable local or remote source) may be a better alternative then producing electricity on-site; costs can be lower.
Thre are also situations where natural gas should be considered: areas with poor solar or wind resources, without access to a renewable source of electric power; homes with roofs shaded by trees or by neighboring buildings....
The cost of installed PV systems is now a fraction of what it was some years ago. But it varies from region to region and from country to country.
In Germany, in 2013, the cost amounted to about $2 per peak watt, while in the US the cost ranged from $3.33 in Florida to $5.31 in North Caroline (prices before rebates and incentives, for small - less than 10 kW - systems, according to the 2014 US DOE SunShot report).
Some of these costs can make PV electricity cheaper than retail grid-electricity, in some regions – especially in cases where there are government tax credits or utility rebates.
Today photovoltaic systems are more than just an environmentally-friendly choice; they can be an attractive investment. But it varies; the prices mentioned earlier are just averages.
Costs & Solar potential
And there are factors such as the solar potential of a site that should also be taken into consideration.
As mentioned above, in southern U.S. states, a 5 kW installed system may cost you about $20.000, and be large enough to supply all the electricity of a energy-efficient house, modestly sized. But in the north, the same system will provide a lower percentage of the needs – for the same costs. Obviously, the solar resource potential varies significantly by climate.
And there is also a wide range of soft costs that count, and vary locally: financing costs, site preparationm permits, inspections, and inputs such as inverters, wiring or tracking systems - not to mention labor costs, profit margins of contractors and the size of the PV system and solar resources and sun-facing specificities.