Is Solar Systems becoming more affordable?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by r.h. in okla., Nov 23, 2004.

  1. Been thinking (may have too much time on my hands) about getting my electrical contractors license (if needed) and specializing in Solar and Wind systems for residents. Start my own business and work in my 4 state area.(Okla., Mo., Ar.,and Ks.)

    5 years ago at this time I was working my butt off installing conduit, wiring, and transfer boxes for a outfit who specialized in Solar system. Remember the big Y2K scare. I was working 10 - 12 hour days, 6 - 7 days a week from October thru the end of December. Come Dec. 31st we still had about 4 more house to do. We never did do them. And we had a hard time getting paid for a couple we done.

    Anywho, 5 years have passed and have been wondering if prices have dropped any and if the demand has increased. Usually bigger demand means lower prices.
     
  2. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    With Peak Oil getting more and more press, I would think this would be a good time to get into alternative energy sources.

    Kathleen
     

  3. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Bigger demand usually means higher prices, I think. Prices of PVs have been going up a bit the last year or two due to increased demand in Europe and in Japan and other countries. I put in another 12 PV panels this fall, 1500 watts rated output, with a mounting rack that I built and a new Outback charge controller and other items needed to make it code-complying, and spent about $7000 or more on it. The price of the panels had gone up about $20 from June to August when I finally bought them.
    I would do some checking in Home Power magazine and similar sources to see where the dealer/installers are closest to you, and maybe talk to them to see how busy they are.

    Jim
     
  4. BackwoodsIdaho

    BackwoodsIdaho Well-Known Member

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    I thought about doing that in Idaho since so many live off the grid. What I found is that most people can't or won't afford to do the project right and code compliant. They can't pay for professional installation or advice so they cobble it together themselves as best they can with free advice and sweat equity. Those that can afford it are usually on the grid in the first place.

    jim
     
  5. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

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    If I were to attempt to specialize in solar/alternative energy installations, I think I would target an area where the folks had no choice and a fair amount of disposable income... anywhere there are cottages, without power, being purchased/built by folks from larger cities.

    Where there is grid power available, the majority of folks would never opt for alternative energies... it just does not make economic sense and would require a lifestyle change which most folks would not accept.

    cheers,
     
  6. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    The thing is, and what people need to realize, is that the lifestyle change is coming whether people want to accept it or not. As the price of oil goes up and availability goes down, electricity and every thing else is going to get more expensive and harder to get also. It's either make the change now, or do without altogether down the line, because at some point the equipment isn't even going to be manufactured any more.

    Kathleen
     
  7. FrankTheTank

    FrankTheTank Well-Known Member

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    BlueJuniper~have you been over on http://peakoil.com ??? you should be!

    I know in my area, I see very few solar/wind setups. I guess as long as electricity/gas is cheap, people will keep living day to day. I think if you wanted to make some money, you would probably go to ski areas (CO, UT, etc)...where the rich build there retreats.
     
  8. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I've looked at most of the Peak Oil sites. I was also on a Yahoogroups list, RunningOnEmpty2, for a while, but they are mostly way out in left field so I finally left. There is good information there sometimes, if you are interested, but also discussions of how the population needs to decrease (but you don't see them volunteering to go first).

    Kathleen
     
  9. So I guess what everyone is saying is that it is still way to expensive for most people to afford even if one day we could all wake up and find out it is too late to convert!

    5 years ago when I was installing for the big Y2K scare it was the big executive type people that was having the solar installed. The average joe like me was building up in arms, ammo, and lots of food.
     
  10. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Around here (in Western Wisconsin) there are a surprising number of people who have built small homes and are off the grid, even though the power lines go past the edge of their property, often only a couple of hundred yards away. Many of them are doing it for environmental and political reasons, and when they find that their simple system with a couple of panels and a couple of golf cart batteries actually works, they start investing in more panels, bigger and better batteries, better charge controllers, an inverter, etc., and pretty soon they find that they can use professional advice. Also, there are some rebates available, depending on the part of Wisconsin that you are in , and which power company serves your area. Usually it doesn't include the rural areas served by the electric co-ops, as the co-ops don't seem to be interested in alternative energy such as solar and wind.

    Speaking of costs--how many people buy a new car every year or two for the cost of a substantial solar electric system? We would rather drive 10+ year old vehicles and have a good solar/wind electric system which will still be working in 20+ years (our wind generator was built in the 1940s and we have some PV panels that are 23 years old now and working fine.)

    Jim
     
  11. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    "Come Dec. 31st we still had about 4 more house to do. We never did do them. And we had a hard time getting paid for a couple we done."


    These are your words, I think they pretty much sums it up.
     
  12. reluctantpatriot

    reluctantpatriot I am good without god.

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    I am not sure about them becoming more affordable, but in my part of Missouri with our rural co-op electric service I doubt that we will have any incentives either. Our co-op openly disparages solar, wind and hydro alternatives for both small (individual) and co-op (grid utility) situations. They prefer to focus on coal and natural gas/propane powered plants, with the emphasis on coal.

    While our electric service is pretty reliable, sooner or later we will have a time when the cheap and plentiful electric service will be less so. It is a slow process for me to work on my homestead, but I do know that I want off-grid power. Even if it means using a cheap automotive battery 12 volt system that I have to charge up with a generator now and again to start with, it is better to start out somehow than just wait for credits and utility support.

    As for Y2K, it was a dry run in emergency preparations for large-scale disruption senarios. Though nothing happened, it was a wake up call. Those with the money and invested in the off-grid systems would have power but perhaps not much to live on or defend themselves with. Those who opted for hard supplies rather than solar electric systems probably would have been better off in the long run for the most part.

    The main things that are run by electric for my mother's home are the food refrigeration, the well pump and the electric blower on the outdoor wood furance. Everything else is optional and extra. I would have to help her figure out what to do with the frozen and refrigerated food, but that would be doable. The water we can get from the creek that is at the bottom of our quarter mile long driveway, and there is the infrared wall heater that can be used for heat if there is no power. The problem for most modern homes is that they are not designed for off-grid systems.

    When I begin building my homestead I will focus on having it be livable without any electric power. From there I will add just enough electrical system for a few electrical things that are nice to have, but keeping the need very low.

    Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of off-grid, renewable energy sources to supply electricity to provide power to homes. I simply think that they can provide some extra comforts that raise us above pioneer level existance, though knowing how to live as a pioneer would be even better just in case you have to do without any kind of electrical power.
     
  13. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    "The main things that are run by electric for my mother's home are the food refrigeration, the well pump and the electric blower on the outdoor wood furance. Everything else is optional and extra. I would have to help her figure out what to do with the frozen and refrigerated food, but that would be doable. The water we can get from the creek that is at the bottom of our quarter mile long driveway, and there is the infrared wall heater that can be used for heat if there is no power. The problem for most modern homes is that they are not designed for off-grid systems.

    When I begin building my homestead I will focus on having it be livable without any electric power. From there I will add just enough electrical system for a few electrical things that are nice to have, but keeping the need very low."

    Just some observations:

    1. Freezing food in quantitiy without an outside source of power would be extremely difficult. It takes a good bit of juice to run compressors.

    2. How do you plan to sterilize the creek water before use?

    3. Perhaps I don't understand what an infrared wall heater is, but it sure sounds like it requires juice, and a lot of it.

    4. On your house, limiting it to low usage, such as you suggested, would greatly affect potential resale value as not many buyers would be interested in it. Retrofitting can be very expensive.
     
  14. BobBoyce

    BobBoyce Well-Known Member

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    Before I placed the order for my home (single wide manufactured home), I went over the plans and made some minor changes to suit my needs. I had an equiptment closet added with an extra electrical breaker panel for a PV solar power installation. I also had them reinforce the floor at that location with extra frame crossmembers for the battery weight. It sure made it a lot easier when it came time to install that system and all of the batteries. Even though we planned to eventually build a site built home, this meets the needs until that time.

    Bob
     
  15. Your right about most homes are not designed for off grid. That was our job when hired by the person who installed the solar systems. We would hard pipe in conduit, install transfer switches, and emergencey panel boxes plus run all necessary wiring. Plus we installed specially designed breaker switches that had the was red in color so when you went off grid you would shut down all breakers except the red ones.

    Some people had both solar panels and generators installed. Also after the Y2K scare some of those people had Generators for sale!
     
  16. reluctantpatriot

    reluctantpatriot I am good without god.

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    When I refered to my mother's home and the necessary electrical needs for her, I was simply pointing out the vital needs for electricity for her. When the power goes out, the refrigeration, blower fan and well pump are the three things that are important to find alternatives for. In the short term there is no worry because it is possible to survive a day with the pressure tank water, the propane infrafred wall heater in the living room and the freezers can keep frozen food cold for a day to three depending on outdoor temperatures.

    If it were a long term situation the frozen food would have to be dealt with and we might have to find someway to can it, dry it or cure it. As for water, we would have to boil it. I realize that for real preparedness I would have to obtain certain water filtration supplies and other items. I am only pointing out that right now in the current situation these are the solutions she has right now.

    Regarding building my home to be low electric, I don't intend to sell the home. If I were, it would be to a like minded homesteader. For that matter, my mother's home as a conventional home is not what most people would want because it doesn't have enough luxuries and bells and whistles. Her home suits her and I help her maintain it for her comfort. I will be building about 100 yards or a bit more west of her house in the timber.

    Not all of us want to build the same thing or live in the same manner. More to the point, why would anyone live in a hobbit hole or recycled refrigerated semi trailer if they wanted to sell it to someone else? For some of us it isn't about catering to the needs of the general public, it is about focusing on what we need for our own personal happiness.

    Also, why would we even think about an off-grid solar system if we wanted to sell to the majority? Better to just build a conventional home with on-grid utilities if you want to sell it to the masses.

    We each have our own peferences. We also have our own views about the issues and topics. I think we will have to agree to disagree.
     
  17. Darren

    Darren Still an :censored:

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    There is an alternative theory to peak oil. Whether the alternate theory is realistic or not, oil pricing will still be cyclic. Currently the oil traders are setting oil prices. OPEC lost control even though they have excess capacity. Even China won't necessarily be the factor in demand that many think.

    Beyond the periodic interest due to high oil prices or something like Y2K, I'd consider the basics. Nothing dramatic has happened to either improve efficiency or lower pricing for alternative energy. Until something like that happens, I wouldn't expect demand for solar to increase tremendously. That puts your new business in the position of competing for the same pie that all the existing businesses are already courting. As an all around electrical contractor, you'd be positioned better to succeed.

    FWIW, keep an eye on flywheel storage devices. Because of the cost, utilities are the primary buyers. If the costs of the devices decline, because of technical breakthroughs or production efficiencies, solar will become a much more viable option since the need for batterries and the required maintenance will be a thing of the past.