There is a lot of chatter around renewable energy, and many people are embracing the idea of green power sources. Solar energy, in particular, has attracted much attention in recent years. However, many people interested in installing a solar power system don’t know where to start or how much it would cost. So, here is a simple guide on the different price tags of a solar system.
The Cost Units
The cost of a solar power system can be broken down into several cost units. Within each unit, there are different price options that depend on the type of product and the quality.
The solar panels are the centre-piece of the solar power system. They serve the purpose of converting sunlight to electrical energy through photovoltaic cells. Primarily, there are four types of solar panels.
Single-crystal or monocrystalline panels get their name from the design, which comprises several wafers cut from a single pure silicon crystal. Moreover, the panels can be identified by their unique dark colour.
Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient and durable type of solar panels. However, they are expensive. The hefty price tag is from the manufacturing process, which can waste up to 50% of the silicon raw material.
Unlike single-crystal panels, polycrystalline panels are manufactured from different crystals. As a result, the cost of production is low, and so is the final price tag. However, polycrystalline panels have lower efficiency, and their durability doesn’t match the single-crystal panel.
Thin Film Panels
The cost of the thin film panel depends on the raw materials used. The most common type of thin film panel is made from cadmium telluride (CdTe). The manufacturing process involves laying the CdTe between transparent conducting layers that capture sunlight. Moreover, a floss finish is added to the design for protection. Among the thin film designs, the CdTe option is the cheapest.
Some thin film panels are made from amorphous silicon. This design uses non-crystalline silicon to form low-profile panels.
Finally, the most expensive option in the thin film family is the Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) panels. The manufacturing process involves laying the four elements between two conducting layers. Despite the cost, CIGS thin film panels are generally cheaper than other types of panels due to other factors like installation costs.
Solar batteries come in many different shapes and sizes; however, there are four main types.
Lead Acid Battery
The lead acid battery is the most affordable and reliable solar battery. Moreover, it’s the oldest technology on the list dating back to the 19th century. The lead acid battery comes in two main designs; flooded and sealed.
Unfortunately, the flooded design requires ventilation and regular maintenance. Moreover, under no circumstance should the battery be placed on its side. Furthermore, lead acid batteries have a low depth of discharge and a short lifespan.
Nonetheless, the reliability of the battery makes it great for off-grid solar power systems and backup power storage.
The lithium-ion battery is the new kid on the block. Its popularity has followed the rise of electric vehicle technology, where it’s the most widely used battery.
The lithium-ion battery has a higher energy density, depth of discharge and a longer lifespan than other batteries. Moreover, the battery doesn’t need any maintenance.
Unfortunately, lithium-ion battery is quite expensive. Furthermore, it carries the risk of catching fire if it’s installed incorrectly.
Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) Batteries
The Ni-Cd battery system is an old technology that has seen numerous developments. It’s a favourite in the aircraft industry.
Nonetheless, Ni-Cd batteries are durable and can stand extreme temperatures. Furthermore, they are maintenance-free and operate on simple battery management systems. The cost of a Ni-Cd battery is low, but its use is banned in some countries since cadmium is a potentially toxic material.
The technology used in flow batteries is still young, but it has incredible results. The battery has two chambers holding a water-based electrolyte liquid, serving as the energy storage unit. The flow battery has the longest lifespan compared to other batteries. Moreover, the battery can discharge 100% of the stored power.
Unfortunately, flow batteries are massive and impractical for residential use. Furthermore, the units are expensive.
Solar Installation Costs
The installation cost of solar panels systems depends on the solar company you contract. Installation involves electrical wiring, placement of the solar panels and system configuration. It’s an intricate process that requires professional input. Therefore, you are better off employing the skills of a renowned firm. It may come at a higher cost, but it’s worth it. Furthermore, most firms offer maintenance services.
The installation cost also directly correlates with your system’s size. Large solar power systems accrue a large bill. Moreover, some solar power systems require specialist input. This means that the cost is slightly higher than standard setups.
Other lifetime costs to account for include repair costs, replacement costs and costs of upgrading. Nonetheless, the cost of installing a solar system is an investment. The returns are much greater.