Realtor James Lupori of the Kenmore Undressed blog has written two articles about the viability of solar power in the Northwest. He looks at the topic from the point of view of a remodeling project.
Based on his numbers, it will cost him approximately $1,600 to install one 13 square foot solar panel that will produce 205kw of power while the sun shines. This cost includes the actual installation of the panels. And that’s on the cheap end of installation. Normally the cost of installation ranges between $7/watt to $9/watt, so James is getting a good deal on installation.
Is it worth it? Well, yes.
Currently, solar power installations will payback their investment in about 20 years. The downside is that the average lifespan of current solar panels is only 25 years. Hopefully, when it comes time to replace them, the cost will have dropped significantly.
And as more and more units are installed, costs will drop. As newer solar cell technology is developed, the amount of power produced by solar panels will go up. Our current solar cell technology is only 17% to 20% efficient for most commercial solar panels. The highest efficiencies are around 40%, but at a much higher cost per panel.
So, how many square feet solar panels do you need to power your home? Take out your energy bills for the last twelve months and add together kWh on them for your yearly total. Then, divide your yearly kWh usage by 1.5. The resulting number will tell you how many square feet of solar panels you would need to power your home.
The obvious problem with solar power is that you only get power while the sun shines. So, if you really want to get off the grid, you’ll need to go multi-modal with your power generation. I’m a firm believer in multi-modal transportation and that applies to power generation as well.
In the Northwest we have a lot of wind, so wind turbines are a possibility. However, I strongly suggest that you seek out expert advice before going out a buying one. Some neighborhoods may ban them for the noise that they make. Also, you may not have enough wind in your area to for a turbine to work at all. But, if you’re lucky to live in a place where the wind blows consistently, it’s a worthwhile investment.
The Kenmore Undressed articles:
SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 1
SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 2
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