What are solar panels? Laid atop the roofs in the housing area, lined with white grids over a blue pane, those are solar panels. Solar panels convert sunlight energy into electricity for power homes and industries.
These devices are considered one of the most eco-friendly devices as they do not emit any harmful substances. With abundant sunlight available in many parts of the world, even during Winter, solar panels promote sustainability, as they utilize a renewable source of sunlight.
Developed countries such as the United States and China have widely used this method nationwide to provide high amounts of power. However, there are some downsides to this “miracle”.
Solar Panel Installation
Although the functions of solar panels look very simple, there are lots of procedures to consider. One of the factors to look at is the size of the solar panel; whether it fits the roof.
Some houses with smaller roofs may not allow the construction of solar panels, as it is considered inefficient for power generation into the household, and for houses with larger roof area, they require more.
Another factor to look into solar panel installation is the amount of power produced by the solar panels. Different brands produce different efficiencies of solar panels, although all solar panels look the same.
Brands and companies such as SunPower and LG produce some of the most efficient solar panels, though the efficiency range is around only 22%. The SunPower model Maxeon 3 can produce 400 watts of power, and the LG model Neon R can produce 380 watts of power.
Other than that, the difference in power output may also be varied with use over time, as solar panels do degenerate over time.
Next, solar panels can also be affected by temperatures. Being temperature coefficient is important for the solar panels to function properly, such that lower temperatures would make the power output rate increase and higher temperatures may cause overheating in the solar panels, with decreased performances. As said, overheating would cause the degeneration process to accelerate.
Other than that, durability is also an essential component in determining solar panels. According to the website greenmatch.co.uk, This could be an indicator of the manufacturer’s confidence in its products.
Usually, solar panels have a 25 year warranty (as long as the company operates). If the manufacturer does not offer a long warranty period, you could suspect that their product is not very good and hence they don’t want to take any responsibility.
In this case, be careful not to be misled by a tempting price since you might regret it in the long term.
Of course, it is important to properly maintain your solar panels to increase the lifespan of them. Fortunately, they are easy to take care of and don’t require much maintenance.
Other than that, a durable solar panel would save you years of maintenance fees as well as replacement fees.
Did you know that sunlight capacity affects the choice of choosing solar panels to be installed? Where roofs receive different amounts of sunlight, the selection of the solar panels would fit to where the potential of maximum power output would be produced.
Places with lesser sunlight are usually not recommended relying on solar panels for power but even so, for the same size house, more panels would be needed.
For example, in the USA, Southern states get more sun than northern states. But southern states with higher altitudes and less cloud cover—think of Arizona and New Mexico—get more energy from the sun than states such as Florida or Georgia.
So, for the same size house, you would need more solar panels in Georgia than you would in Arizona.
Different solar panels are composed of different solar cells. Solar cells are the smaller parts that make up the solar panel.
Majorly silicon, solar cells require light energy in order for energy to be produced. There are several types of solar cells: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous silicon solar cells.
Monocrystalline silicon offers high efficiency and good heat tolerance characteristics with a small footprint.
Polycrystalline (or multi-crystalline) silicon cell based solar panels are now the most popular choice in residential installs.
There are also Amorphous (or thin-film) silicon cells, which use the least amount of silicon and are not very efficient. For an equivalent wattage, a crystalline panel will be smaller than an amorphous panel.
Last but not least, well as the different output, the solar panel cost per watt would differ too.
Solar Panel Cost
As much as they mean the future, as well as the perfect solution to sustainability, solar panels are notorious for the high costs. How are the costs determined?
Firstly, solar panels are made of high-purity silicon, and that would require experienced installers.
They must also be complemented with inverters and proper electrical protections to provide a reliable power supply. The solar panel installation cost itself is already high enough to reach four digits and above.
Additional costs would consider labour costs, installing solar mounts, installing solar inverters, and miscellaneous costs like taxes, and permit fees.
Solar mounts are part of the racking system that holds the solar panels in place. They cost additional charges as well, depending on the material used.
Other than that, what are solar inverters? Solar inverters, also known as PV inverters, are components that convert light energy into electricity to power your homes, from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current).
Solar inverters usually last for around ten years, good ones even longer, so be sure to select the best solar inverters for your home’s solar panels.
Looking at the third point, miscellaneous costs, there are legal issues surrounding the installation and use of solar panels. The solar panel cost is usually counted into your monthly electric bills.
Average Cost to Install Solar Panels
The cost of solar panels depends on their brand, size and power output. According to the website Modernize, not judging by the brand, $18,500 for a 6kW solar panel system for a 1,500 square ft. home and the price per watt for solar panels can range from $2.50 to $3.50.
Residential solar panels are usually sized at 3kW to 8kW and can cost anywhere from $9,255 and $24,552 in total installation costs.
Cost per Watt?
Solar panels produce electricity which is measured in units called watts. The question is how significant is this fact?
It has to be taken note of because different places charge different prices, which would affect the cost of solar power used and the electricity’s average cost from solar system usage. In the USA, different states have different costs per watt.
Coming from a list based on consumeraffairs.com, the state with the highest cost per watt is the District of Columbia, at $2.88 per watt, and the cheapest would be Georgia, at $2.33 per watt.
The average cost per watt for the solar panels’ usage depends on factors like financial, economic, and sunlight capacity. To compare Georgia and the District of Columbia, Georgia is on the south side of the USA, whilst the District of Columbia is on the north, home to the capital city, Washington D.C.
This meant that Georgia has more sunlight than the District of Columbia. Other than that, provided that Washington D.C. is the capital city, this state is financially richer than Georgia.
Therefore, the District of Columbia has a higher average cost per watt than the state of Georgia.
Although solar panel installations can be very costly, they are said to potentially be able to cut your electric bill by 75%.
As said, this depends on your location, how much sunlight your area has and your energy needs. This is because the solar system generates energy from your roof to the appliances in your home, consuming less energy from the local power grid.
Taking into account the 22% to 26% federal tax credit for installing solar panels, most Americans’ solar panels start paying for themselves within seven years.
Federal solar-electric property tax credits will decrease to 26% for systems installed before 2021 and decrease again to 22% for systems installed before 2022.
Even if your solar panels generate 100% of your electricity needs, you may still receive a utility bill. However, instead of asking for payments, you will get net metering credits for the month.
Federal Tax Credit
In the US, the tax credit is a dollar-to-dollar reduction for the income you owe. As federal tax credits come from the federal governments, this would mean that the federal tax credit decreases the amount of tax you owe to the federal government.
Legal Issues on Solar Energy
The solar panel system business can be quite complex, with many issues surrounding costs, permission, and construction. On the website Solar Power World, these are the following issues that are being covered.
For every sector of the economy, there are respective tax credits. The federal solar tax credit is also known as the investment tax credit. It allows you to deduct 26% of your federal taxes for the installation costs of your solar system.
To claim a 30% credit, the solar panel system must be installed before December 31st 2019. The federal solar tax credit will expire in 2022 until Congress renews it. The federal solar tax credit was passed in 2005
Transaction Structure: The majority of consumer-scale solar arrangements are structured in three typical ways, each of which has its own benefits, costs and complexities: (1) power purchase agreements (PPA), under which an energy consumer purchases the solar power generated by a solar system physically located at such consumer’s property, but which solar system is owned, operated and maintained by a third-party; (2) solar system ownership, where an energy consumer purchases, owns and maintains a solar system and uses the generated solar electricity for its power needs; and (3) solar energy system leasing, a financing alternative to ownership.
Incentives: The most used financial incentive is the federal investment tax credit (ITC), which provides qualifying entities with a tax credit equal to a certain percentage of the eligible costs of a project.
In addition, many states offer grants, rebates and attractive loan programs for qualifying projects. Often, a combination of financial incentives may be used to increase economic returns on a solar project.
Financing: Purchase money for projects is typically a mix of existing and new equity and debt. There is no one-size-fits-all financing solution, and most projects are completed using a combination of both equity and debt.
Siting, Zoning and Permitting: It is important to ensure that the project can be constructed in compliance with all applicable environmental, land use and zoning requirements and that all necessary permits to construct and operate the system can be timely obtained.
The availability of liability protections from environmental regulatory agencies may also need to be assessed. In addition, leases, easements and other access rights may need securing when a solar project is hosted on a third-party’s property.
Engineering, Procurement and Construction: Since large solar energy systems can easily cost in tens of millions of dollars, EPC contracts should be drafted and negotiated to clearly set forth both parties’ respective obligations and responsibilities.
Energy Regulation: The point at which a private individual or entity generating solar electricity becomes a regulated utility may depend on whether such an individual or entity consumes the power it generates or sells power to third parties under a PPA, or to the public generally through the grid.
These questions can be jurisdiction-specific, so it’s important for a power provider to evaluate and resolve these and other similar regulatory questions upfront. Likewise, physically interconnecting a project with an energy customer’s electrical infrastructure or the grid can be highly regulated and the parties involved must understand the regulatory framework, the Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) interconnection rules, and the requirements of the local public utility.
Renewable Energy Credits: If intending to use a Renewable Energy Credit (REC) for purposes of meeting above-code programs such as for LEED-certified green building projects, it will be important to ensure compliance with those program requirements. As with all commodities, monetizing REC values can require both business and legal issues expertise.
Allocation Of Risk: A project’s failure to perform as predicted can have economic impacts, and anticipated cost savings can quickly vanish. In addition, if the regulatory programs or incentives fueling the REC market are modified or revoked, the assumed financial benefits may not be realized.
While these and other iterations of operational and regulatory risk cannot be eliminated entirely, informed participants in the solar energy industry should identify and evaluate risks, contractually allocate them accordingly and ensure that deal pricing accurately reflects such allocation.
Operations & Maintenance: System owners may seek to engage a third-party contractor to perform operations and maintenance services. The ongoing costs of such services should be factored into the owner’s financial models. Further, maintenance responsibilities should be accounted for in addressing the allocation of operational risks.
Best Solar Panels
What are some of the best solar panels? Is it based on some of the lowest solar panel cost or average cost per watt? The best solar systems would produce power efficiently with adequate amounts of sunlight, at affordable installation solar panel costs.
As mentioned above, there are several types of solar panels and cells. It is said that the best cells are monocrystalline because they are more efficient as they are cut from a single pure crystal ingot.
In the past, the higher cost of mono cells led the way for polycrystalline technology to become the preferred cell type used.
However, over the last few years, the cost of mono wafers dropped significantly and most manufacturers have now shifted back to using either mono or cast-mono cells.
Polycrystalline cells often referred to as multi-crystalline or ‘multi’ cells, are usually made from cast square ingots grown from multifaceted crystalline material (grown in multiple directions).
This is cheaper to produce but offers slightly lower efficiency due to the recombination loss which occurs at the grain boundaries.
Poly cells are still widely used and very reliable, but as explained below, monocrystalline cells are considered superior due to the higher efficiency and lower temperature coefficient.
Cast mono cells also known as Quasi mono-silicon cells are made using a cast manufacturing process similar to polycrystalline cells.
The less energy-intensive casting process reduces the cost of manufacturing the ‘mono like’ cells compared to conventional mono cells made using the common Czochralski process.
Cast-mono wafers are less susceptible to boron-oxygen defects and have a low rate of light-induced degradation (LID) making them comparable in performance and reliability to monocrystalline cells.
Cast mono cells have been around for many years but only recently adopted by several of the large panel manufacturers including Canadian Solar, Jinko Solar & GCL.
To put together all these types, the best solar panel and best solar system would be made of mono-crystalline cells. If the solar system is more efficient, the cost of solar panels maintenance would be a lot cheaper over the years.
As mentioned before as well, high temperatures may degenerate the solar panels faster but what if there is a solution to this? Well, fortunately, there is a solution.
Mono-crystalline cells have a slightly lower cell temperature coefficient which results in slightly higher performance in elevated temperature.
All solar cells and panels are rated using standard test conditions (STC – measured at 25°C) and slowly reduce power output as cell temperature increases.
Generally, cell temperature is 20-35°C higher than the ambient air temperature which equates to an 8-14% reduction in power output.
PERC Cells, also known as passivated cells, are part of a solar system with an advanced solar cell architecture. It has more cells layered on each other to increase efficiency by having to absorb more light.
It is a recent invention that has already been widely used by manufacturers around the world. These new cells produce 6 to 12 more percent of power than the conventional solar panel.
Installation costs for this solar system installation would be more expensive despite having used the same elements and materials to make these solar panel.
However, the solar panel costs would be higher due to the technology. Some of the manufacturers that use PERC cell solar panels include Winaico, Trina Solar, Q cells, LONGi Solar, Jinko Solar, Risen and JA Solar.
Solar panels are not only just made for home use or industrial use, but in everyday appliances like portable charger or calculators.
Such solar panels are usually mono-crystalline cell panels. Since they are usually small, the solar panel cost does not count distinctly into the price of the overall product.
Additional solar panels which are smaller are increasingly used and that would help to escape the federal solar tax credit or additional solar panel cost for installation.
The following are the solar panels of various uses:
1. Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel, Compact Design 42.2 X 19.6 X 1.38 in
This solar panel is reliable and durable, as it can last a long life and can withstand weather conditions. It is portable and versatile, can be used for RV when camping, and the monocrystalline panel provides you with the most efficiency per space. It rates 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. No federal solar tax credit will be charged.
The idea of having a solar panel is to be ideally energy efficient, and solar energy is the best way in this era to practice efficient energy consumption. Usually, it is recommended that you get 2 solar panels for a 24 or 48-volt battery array. Renogy’s 100 Watt is sufficient to charge a 12-volt battery.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will need an extra layer of protection for your batteries, and that is a solar charge controller, where it can prevent your batteries from overcharging, as well as depletion at night and terminal reversal.
The solar charge controller does not come together when you make this purchase, however, if you do get Renogy’s Solar Panel Starter Kit, the solar charger is included.
Why make this purchase, you ask? Well, to begin with, the panel has pre-installed diodes on its own to protect your batteries from discharging at night. To put it into simpler terms, this means that your Renogy Solar panels will never discharge your batteries even without a solar charge controller.
2. BLUETTI AC50S 500Wh Portable Power Station with Solar Panel Included, 300W/Dual AC Outlet Solar Generator Camping Battery Backup
This solar system is made of high qualified SunPower monocrystalline silicon cells which are 5% higher efficiency than traditional monocrystalline.
It features ETFE lamination thus has better light transmittance, more durable, scratch-proof, and easy to clean by wet cloth. This solar system has a foldable design with a handle, weighing only 9.48lbs.
This model features a capacity of 500Wh battery, which can charge almost any small batteries such as your smartphone, tablet, or even a power bank. The battery has a multitude of charging options to charge a very wide variety of devices. And that also includes a 60W CPAP device for over 5 hours.
By making this purchase, you’ll find in the box that there will be an AC adapter and cable, a cigarette lighter cable that connects to a DC7909 connector, an MC4 cable that connects to the same DC7909 port, as well as a USB Type-C cable. It also comes with a user manual, warranty card, and a cable to connect to a solar panel array.
Let’s bring to the main attention of the show here, that is that you are able to charge using your car battery, which is very convenient. You can even charge it while you drive. A 12V car battery will charge in about 7 hours, while a 24V car battery will charge it in about 3.5 hours.
What’s more is that this power station supports BOTH AC and DC, as long as you are plugging it to the correct port.
Other than that, this solar system is convenient to carry around for outdoor camping. This solar system can easily adjust the angle by the kickstands for better solar absorption. No federal solar tax credit will be charged here.
3. LG Neon R: LG370Q1C-V5
370W High Efficiency LG NeON® R Solar Panel with 60 Cells(6 x 10), Module Efficiency: 21.4%, Connector Type: MC4
As mentioned in the text earlier, this is one of the best solar panels. The cost of solar panels in this series will be available after inquiry. This solar system has a 25-year product warranty, with high power output.
Made in South Korea, one of the best manufacturers for solar panels, known for their solar technology, this product does not disappoint. They produce high-quality photovoltaics, which is the main component for solar energy collection. Besides that, LG is also a known brand that does not break the bank, while having a high quality feature.
The Neon R series is the flagship of LG and has a module efficiency capacity of 22%. Having 21.4% in one single product is already impressive. Neon R panels can generate up to 380W from a panel only slightly larger than a standard 60 cell panel.
Neon R panels are slightly more premium priced compared to any other panels, such as the P-type panels. Generally, the price jump is about 45% more expensive. However, you will be getting what you pay for. The higher price comes with ultra-high build quality, durability, low light performance, high efficiency, and extremely low degradation over the life of the panel.
This means that this single panel can last you for a long time, and you’ll be spending much less over the years in search of a newer product.
With solar panel cost varying from brands, types and functions, installation is still very expensive. The solar panel cost not counting the installation will still cost thousands of dollars. The cost of solar power is free, but to utilize, it comes at a price.
Solar panels used for commercial use do not require installation, so the cost of the solar panel there will be a lot cheaper, while for the ones that are in need of installation, the cost of the solar panel there will differ based on the client’s demand.