DIY: Solar Power Setup

From the obvious Sci-Fi coolness of it (Electricity, Satellites, Futuristic Robots!) And the eco-friendliness of it (energy with zero pollution or noise ), in the past five years, the money side of things has finally grown, so that solar power is currently the least expensive way to generate power — even before you account for the extra bonus of any available subsidies as well as the benefits of pollution-free living.

It works for people: In many instances, if you can find a fantastic rack of solar panels on your roof, your monthly savings will be equal to making an investment that demonstrates better than the stock market. However, the numbers look even better as your solar installation gets larger, like if you are running a solar energy utility or a neighborhood solar farm.

Connected: Recently Colorado Energy Bids, Solar energy is the least expensive option, even if backed by battery storage (Vox).

The interesting part of this for me has always been physics. Ever since I learned just how much energy the Sun shines on our planet’s surface (about 16,000 times more energy than most of humanity consumes, in spite of our present bloated customs ), I have been sure a mostly-solar-electric world was unavoidable. The only obstructions were human inertia and politics, which can be temporary.

For example, consider the following map showing the tiny amount of our slopes we would need to cover with solar panels to replace all energy consumption (electricity, oil, gas, nuclear, wind, etc.)

And it is even better than that: the picture above presumes an old-school solar panel efficiency of 8%, whereas 18 percent is currently a standard rate. So it is possible to cut the black dots in half again, and then chop a couple more times to account for other existing clean energy resources.

And of course, you do not need to focus the panels and operate giant power lines everywhere as indicated from the map. You can stick solar panels almost anywhere and they’ll begin working like small workers for you, tirelessly cranking out energy (which is equal to cash ) and automatically.

That is, of course, the actual subject of this report.

So naturally, I have always wanted to get my very own solar power farm. Until now, various excuses kept me from getting it done: no terrific places to place panels on the roof of my main home, slightly unfavorable regional regulations, but largely a lack of understanding of precisely what to buy and how to install it.

I pledged that if I finally got this job done, I would write up a report for you, to spare you some of the study and time consumption that I had to go through.

As you can see from the image above, I have started by building a relatively small solar array. Each generates 300 watts of power when the sun shines, and if you run the numbers for my climate, the entire installation will crank out about 6100 kWh/year of power, a chunk that’s worth about $732 per year at average US power rates.

Pretty amazing — enough energy to operate my coworking space and Mrs. MM’s adjoining retail shop… from a chunk of pretty black glass that’s about exactly the exact same size as one car parking space!

So my total cost, as a result of a very good chance of having a friend who is both a committed Mustachian and also the owner of a booming solar firm, was $3,900.

That is the best case, but even when you include normal profit margins and a 30% tariff the Donald recently levied on solar panels (and don’t forget the panels are mercifully only half the price of the machine ), it’s still possible to purchase a similar Complete kit for $5000 or so.

When you are measuring the yearly return on your investment (or”payback period”), there is just 1 thing that matters on the cost side: cost per watt. I ended up building this system at about $1.08 per watt, which is low by today’s standards but will sound high.

And bear in mind, there are generally tax incentives to reduce this cost further — you can take 30 percent off the top of the cost because of the US Federal “Investment Tax Credit (ITC)”, and more from your state and local authorities or utility.