Cheaper solar installations

The need for highly specialized labor and custom installations drives up the installed cost of solar to about $7 per watt nationwide, or roughly $35,000 for a 5 kW installation, before government incentives.

Korman wants to bring the cost down to about $21,600 or between $4 – $4.50 per watt. To achieve this goal, GE would offer a standardized kit that includes modules that output low-voltage alternating current (AC) power instead of the high-voltage direct current (DC) power of most modules. Roofers and electricians can safely install these lower voltage systems on standardized mounts, eliminating the high cost of installation.


Wikipedia – Micro-inverters

Latest and greatest – Enphase M215

These in-panel or attached DC-to-AC inverters are relatively new to the market, and should have a huge impact on the cost and improve the reliability of these systems. Awesome!

Wonky political question – If the government susidized a $35,000 installation down to say $20,000, would manufacturers still have strong incentive to bring the cost down on their own?

Steven Chu

So, let’s see. He has had a career focused on energy, is clearly passionate about the subject, isn’t enthusiastic about making ethanol from corn, thinks we need higher gas taxes, favors nuclear power, favors alternative energy funding, favors higher energy efficiency, and is pro-science. That’s exactly how I would describe myself, so from my perspective I love the choice.

Quotes from Chu’s papers and some additional commentary can be found on The Oil Drum. I have to say, I’m a fan as well. He’s smart, he’s a physics guy, he likes nuclear and hates coal, and he’s a member of the Pigou club. This guy should do some good.

Home Power Magazine

One of the main things I’ve learned about going solar is that it involves a lot of very complex issues – hardware, performance, weather / temperature, state law, federal law, local power company policies, etc. If you don’t plan things out and do your research, you’ll screw yourself. FYI, finding information, especially vendor related information online on solar power is a royal pain in the ars. I came across Home Power Magazine while doing my research and purchased a subscription. I recently received my first issue and was blown away – detailed articles on actual setups, wiring diagrams, hardware reviews, performance reviews of panels, and tons of vendor information search engines never turned up. Home Power will help clear up a lot of questions and illuminate all the issues. If you’re thinking of going solar, I highly recommend you pick up a subscription.

Going Solar

I’ve been living in a gated community now for almost 7 years. I’ve enjoyed it but there are disadvantages – close in living, homeowners associations, traffic and tourists, and a lack of space / seclusion. One of the options I’m considering for a real estate investment is to rent out my current house and buy another place I’ll enjoy more. My current place fits perfect as a long term rental property based on the research I’ve done so far, and a new house will give me the opportunity to do some things I can’t do in a covenant based community.

One of the things I’d really like to do is go solar for electric power. In the community I current live, I can’t install panels on the roof as it’s a violation of rules and regulations, and I don’t have a large enough back yard to install the more advanced stand-alone photovoltaic tracking systems. A new house on a plot of land would allow me to do so. I also think it would make for a really cool technology experiment in green living.

So I’m looking at good property I can build on and existing homes on nice chunks of acreage (1-10 acres would be nice). As far as solar goes, it’s actually pretty easy to do, there are various different types of residential system to choose from, each providing different levels of energy output. The more energy out, the higher the cost and space requirements. Initial investments range from 10K to 50K, with a return that should pay for the investment over a period of 10-15 years. After that you’re making money off it. Plus, heck, going green feels good, and hopefully drops your carbon footprint into negative digits.

If you’re curious here are some links to companies and sites that provide information on the technology and systems. It’s a basic list at this point, but I’ll be updating it with more information as I continue the research.

General Information –

Florida Solar Energy Center

Provider Directories –

Florida Solar Energy Industry Association

National Solar Provider Directory

Example Systems and Cost –

Home Solar Solutions

Silicon Solar

Full Circle Solar

Government Programs –

State of Florida $20K installation rebate – This program has been so popular the initial budget was met, there’s now a waiting list to receive it.

Federal Solar Tax Credit – Enacted by Bush 2005, and extended recently through 2008, a 30% tax credit on the purchase of solar voltaic systems.