Found this great article in New York Times about how solar panels have dropped in price by 40%! What is more, is that the prices are expected to take another notable drop in price by next year. Traditionally an installed system was running around a $5 a watt, it now sits at $2 a watt and is going lower. Combined with tax incentives (click here to see your states incentives) this just might be shaping up to be a viable option. I have wanted to have a system that can fully cover my needs and then some. By law in most places utilities are forced to buy any excess energy you have. I estimate I need around a 10 to 20kw system if I stay here in NC. I really have no idea how much I need because living so small makes it more efficient and less space to cool.
Reprinted: NYT Kate Galbrath 8/2009
When Greg Hare looked into putting solar panels on his ranch-style home in Magnolia, Tex., last year, he decided he could not afford it. “I had no idea solar was so expensive,” he recalled.
Greg Hare recently installed solar panels on his home that he hopes will cover between 50 and 80 percent of his electrical bills in Magnolia, Texas.
Greg Hare installed solar panels on his home in Magnolia, Tex., for $77,000 — less than he expected to pay.
Leah Nash for The New York Times
A worker at SolarWorld in Hillsboro, Ore., fills a container with polysilicon, which is then melted to make a solar crystal.
But the cost of solar panels has plunged lately, changing the economics for many homeowners. Mr. Hare ended up paying $77,000 for a large solar setup that he figures might have cost him $100,000 a year ago.
“I just thought, ‘Wow, this is an opportunity to do the most for the least,’ ” Mr. Hare said.
For solar shoppers these days, the price is right. Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to analysts at the investment bank Piper Jaffray.
The price drops — coupled with recently expanded federal incentives — could shrink the time it takes solar panels to pay for themselves to 16 years, from 22 years, in places with high electricity costs, according to Glenn Harris, chief executive of SunCentric, a solar consulting group. That calculation does not include state rebates, which can sometimes improve the economics considerably.
American consumers have the rest of the world to thank for the big solar price break.
Until recently, panel makers had been constrained by limited production of polysilicon, which goes into most types of panels. But more factories making the material have opened, as have more plants churning out the panels themselves — especially in China.
“A ton of production, mostly Chinese, has come online,” said Chris Whitman, the president of U.S. Solar Finance, which helps arrange bank financing for solar projects.
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