The Current Costs of Solar Panels


In the past, the cost of the actual solar panels was a big part of the expense facing homeowners who were interested in installing a system on their home. But technology has dropped the cost of the panels to the point that the panels themselves are one of the cheapest parts of the entire project. Permits, labor, additional hardware and other materials are the bulk of the cost of a solar panel project. So now consumers are turning their focus to purchasing more expensive panels which will offer a higher rate of production to offer a better return on investment.

Types of Panels

The most common panels are a thin film which offers an efficiency of somewhere in the 13% to 19% range. There are also silicone panels which perform at around 21% to 23%. But there are other newer processes that offer production which is closer to the best production physicist believe can be achieved which is 33%.

Understanding the Science

The material that is used to make the solar panels only functions within a specific wavelength. As a result, all of the protons at the other wavelengths simply pass through the material and provide no benefit. But by stacking multiple layers of material that function at different wave lengths, more protons can be absorbed to create more energy.

The Benefit

The current three layer cells which are on the market are offering a greater energy production than the single layer panels but as expected the cost per panel is more expensive. The thought is that with most of the cost of a solar project being allied items and labor, then paying more for higher producing panels is a good investment.

Doing the Math

Working with some easy numbers will demonstrate the increased financial benefit of the more expensive panels. Spending $18,000 for the permits and installation of $2,000 worth of single layer panels could provide $5,000 worth of energy each year. The investment would be recovered in 4 years with this plan and then begin paying a $5,000 a year profit. With the 3 layer panels the cost would increase to $4,000 for the panels and a project cost of $22,000. But the energy production would be $5,500 each year. The project investment would still be recovered in 4 years but then the profit each year would be an additional $500. And the larger the project scales, the greater the return on investment.

As the cost for solar panels decreases, there is a clear argument for investing just a little bit more for a higher quality panel to increase energy production and a home owners return on investment.

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