Nowadays, more and more people are going solar and taking advantage of the benefits of a residential solar energy system. A solar energy system will produce much of the energy your home needs which can help to offset how much energy you need to buy from your utility company.
That means the electricity
flows in a single direction. Your home and appliances
run on alternating current or AC electricity, which means electricity currents can flow back and forth in two directions.
So, to put solar energy to work in your home, your system must include an inverter that converts DC electricity to AC electricity. When your solar energy system is not producing enough electricity for your home when it’s say, a really cloudy day or at night, your home grid-tie solar system is still connected to receive electricity from the grid so you’ll have uninterrupted power.
Before you install solar on your Maine home, there are a few things you’ll need to remember. Every solar installation needs to be permitted in advance by your city or county. This is primarily for safety reasons and your contractor can help you with this.
If you’re part of a homeowners’ association, you’ll need to first obtain approval from your HOA. Not all solar panels are alike. Your contractor can help you select a solar technology that’s best for your home.
For more information on solar technology, visit our solar knowledge base. Congrats on your first step to going solar.
G day, everyone today we’re going to go through the question of whether all solar panels are built the same. This is all the essential info you need to know before deciding on a solar panel for your setup.
That means we get the most sunlight per square metre looking at it. Another way before we had a single solar power station covering 50 by 50 kilometres, with an efficiency of just 10 % about half the current consumer grade efficiency.
It would be sufficient to meet all of Australia’s electricity needs. It’s for all these reasons that solar power makes so much sense for your camping or full driving setup. Plus, it’s easy to use and reliable.
It doesn’t require fuel, so it’s clean and quiet, and these days it’s relatively inexpensive. Okay, let’s get into the most commonly used solar panels for camping and for driving and their uses. First, there are permanent solar set ups.
That means that while you’re driving a vehicle or while you stopped at camp or even while, you’re parked you’re charging your auxiliary battery with the right setup, your solar is taking the load off your alternator and saving your fuel.
Even if it’s a minor improvement, it’s still an improvement. There are a couple of options: glass covered panels with alloy frames are common and they offer a good combination of strength and durability, and then there are semi flexible panels that are gaining popularity, they’re much lower profile.
Lighter weight and can be shaped to gentle curves, so they can fit almost anywhere next. There are your portable solar panels. These offer the benefit that you can choose when to pack them. So if your vehicle is a daily driver, you might need to keep the roof rack free or you don’t need to carry solar around all the time.
That mean you can angle the panel towards the Sun, the higher efficiency, but solar blankets are much more portable, lightweight and easier to transport and store some solar. Blankets do offer fall out legs for the best of both worlds.
All solar panels are most effective when they’re pointed directly towards the Sun and they’re kept relatively cool, so whether you choose permanent solar or portable solar, keep those two things in mind: you’ll need to point them towards the Sun as best you can and keep them well.
Ventilated Plus think about the type of camping and four wheel, driving that you’re actually likely to do. If you spend most of your time sitting around at camp, then a couple of big portable panels or blankets might be the way to do it.
They’re easy to pack easy to set up and easy to connect. That means you got power running into your vehicle, while you’re sitting at camp. Otherwise, if you’re doing long drives throughout the day, permanent solar might make more sense, particularly if you pair it with the right DC to DC charger with solar priority charging.
That means that, while you’re driving your solar panel will be charging your auxiliary battery first and then your alternator will pick up any slack plus, it means your old 12-volt set up is running off the one system, a very basic way to think about how solar works Is that it’s two layers of silicon sandwiched together and different materials added to each layer, so there’s an excess of electrons on one and an excess of holes or free space on the other? Now, in this case, the top layer has an excess of electrons and the bottom layer has an excess of holes.
Those electrons want to travel through the cell to get to the holes when sunlight hits the solar cell, the light particles which are known as photons knock. The electrons out of those holes and back to the top layer where, instead of going back to the holes, they travel along these thin wires known as fingers, and then these thicker wires known as bus bars after that they go through your battery, delivering charge.
Then, back to the base layer where the process is repeated, each of these solar cells is only very low voltage and very low current, which is why connecting many of them together gives you enough usable output to charge your batteries generally more cells equals higher output.
Each type has its own pros and cons so starting with amorphous thin film solar. Now they are slightly better in low light and cloudy conditions, they’re, thinner and more flexible, but that comes at a massive cost, they’re much more expensive to produce and buy and they’re much less efficient, you’d need about twice the surface area of a monocrystalline or polycrystalline.
To get the same energy output, the absolute top shelf amorphous solar cells are about 10 percent efficient, so they’re able to convert about 10 percent of sunlight into usable energy. Next up we’ve got polycrystalline solar.
These are the cheapest to produce, which means they’re the cheapest. For consumers to buy and they’re more efficient than amorphous panels, however, because of the way they’re produced, which is pouring molten silicon into a mold, they cool at different rates, so you’ll see fractures and cracks.
Now they lead to inefficiencies overall, they have a maximum efficiency of just over 22%. Finally, there’s monocrystalline solar yeah. This is the most efficient for its size and it performs slightly better than polycrystalline as it warms up and in low-light conditions, but it costs more to produce and that’s because it’s made from a single piece of silicon.
That means, though, there’s no cracking or fractures, and you do get an efficiency boost about 26.5% overall efficiency, that’s more than the polycrystalline and much more than the Amorphous. These figures are achieved in ideal conditions in the lab, with a single solar cell.
So in the real world, with real solar panels, those figures will vary, but it’s a good place to start when you’re thinking about what type of solar you need for your setup before choosing a solar panel, do your research and find out what cell technology the Panel is the next thing to look for on each cell is the number of bus bars? As I said earlier, when sunlight hits the solar cell, it knocks electrons free from the silicon.
They then travel along the fingers, which is the thin wires and then the thicker wires known as bus bars. If fingers are the back roads, then bus bars are the highways, and that means the more the better.
Not only do you get higher efficiency, but you get better durability and longevity as well early consumer grade solar cells had two bus bars. Then they evolved into three and more recently, four and five.
So that means, if you’re looking at a solar panel, make sure it’s got four or even better. Five bus bars any less than four and it can be sure that it’s old, outdated stuff, that’s probably being sold at a clearance price plus.
If you have an older panel, that seems to be underperforming and it’s got two or three bus bars. It might be the time to upgrade. Bus bars can appear silver like this, or they can be coated with black silicon, which might make them look nicer, but it actually leads to a tiny loss in efficiency.
There are some exceptions to the bus bar rule, though, because bus bars are on top of the cell, they create shade, which means a loss in efficiency. So new technology, like shingles cells, are shaking up the industry.
They have bus bars on each end of the cell, which overlap like a tiled roof of the house. That means even better efficiency, more power and longer life, but the trade-off is that they’re more expensive too.
A uniform colour and the output is within specifications, grade B or Class B cells show minor defects, scratches yellowing or tiny parts of the busbar missing, but the electrical data is within specifications, Class C or grade C cells show visible defects, including chips or cracks large missing Sections of bus bars and the electrical data is not within spec.
Finally, plus D or grade D cells are essentially rubbish with major defects, breakages or damaged. Finally, it’s important and compare each solar panel you’re, looking at like the like solar manufacturers and retailers, use the same standard test conditions in the lab to rate their solar panel wattage.
They light up the panel with a thousand watts per square meter of light and then set the ambient temperature up to 25 degrees Celsius. Then they simulate the amount of atmosphere that the light needs to pass through.
That’s the am 1.5 figure here AM stands for air mass 1.5. Air mass is a good average for most areas as it represents the sun coming through the atmosphere on a slight angle, directly overhead. It have an air mass of 1 and, as the sun goes close to the sunrise or sunset, the number would increase has to go through more atmosphere.
The next thing you’ll see on your solar panel specifications is the normal operating cell temperature. Now, that’s the temperature that your solar panel will reach in normal operating real-world conditions, so 800 watts per square meter of light 20 degrees ambient and about a 3.
5 kilometre per hour wind. Now the back of the panel is elevated, so it’s ventilated as well a solar panels. Normal operating cell temperature might be listed as high as sixty degrees Celsius, but the lower the number the better because it means the panel is more efficient at dispelling Heat and that’s important because for every degree of solar panel reaches above 25 degrees, it could be losing Around half a percent efficiency, so here’s a hot tip the reason power decreases, while temperature increases is because each individual cells voltage drops as they heat up.
The good news, though, is that the current increases as the temperature increases. So if you have a DC DC charger with an MPPT regulator, it can take advantage of that extra current plus boost the voltage to the correct level that your battery requires.
Although you’re losing some power due to the heat of the panel, the MPPT is more capable of then outputting the correct power to correctly charge a battery. My last piece of advice is to go for a more powerful solar setup than you.
That means no matter. The conditions you can always keep your batteries charged up any campsite running smoothly. Now whether that means you opted for a bigger permanent solar panel or at a portable solar panel, tear setup which is easy to use whenever you need it.
Thanks to a 70% drop in price since 2010 and plenty of government subsidies, solar panels have become an integral part of the utility grid, as well as many home rooftops.
However, this renewable energy technology isn’t all sunshine. There’s shadows looming over its bright future. There’s a potential tsunami of solar panels that will be nearing their end-of-life in the coming years.
That fact has concerned many people, as the vast majority of panels here in the U.S. aren’t recycled. Why is that and what happens to these panels at the end of their service life? Is it even possible to recycle them? There’s some interesting advances there that we have to talk about.
Let’s see if we can come to a decision on this. Solar panel recycling has been a topic I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Not too long ago, the LA Times published an article that painted a pretty grim picture and a bunch of you started asking me about it.
So, can we recycle solar panels and is the problem really that bad? Yes, we can recycle them … but it’s complicated. And as a big proponent of solar energy, I can’t ignore that this is a big, looming issue.
Unlike solar energy, solar panels aren’t a never ending resource and most panels will hit their end-of-life in 30 to 40 years. Many people talk about 20-25 years, but often they’re talking about the panel warranty period.
They can last much longer than that, but when they do hit end-of-life, what happens to them at that point? The answer is kind of complicated, as photovoltaic (PV) panels are multi-layered sandwiches made from different materials.
According to the Solar for Energy Industries Association (SEIA), easy-to-recycle materials like the glass pane and aluminum frame make up 80% of a typical PV module. How about the remaining 20%? This changes depending upon the type of panel.
Let’s take silicon-based PV modules, which represent 90% of the global market. In this case, you have a silicon cell with a silver grid on top. Also, there’s an ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) layer sandwiching the cell.
Finally, at the back of the panel, you have a plastic junction box with copper wiring inside. While all of these materials are potentially recyclable, separating them out is a labor-intensive and complex process.
In the best case scenario, solar panels end up in glass recycling facilities, where they mechanically pop off the aluminum frame and the plastic junction box, and they strip off the copper wiring.
Then, recyclers shred the glass pane without isolating the sandwiched components and sell a not-so-shiny glassy powder, a.k.a. cullet, which can be used as building material or for other industrial applications.
In the worst case scenario, solar panels are shredded as received. However, this isn’t worth the effort for recyclers. A paper estimated that you can barely make $3 from the recovered glass, aluminum, and copper of a 60-cell silicon module.
That amount is dwarfed by the expenses, as the cost of recycling a panel in the U.S. can cost up to $25. In contrast, sending a module to a landfill costs just $2. So, you may see why only about 10% of US panels get recycled.
Things could change if we could recover silicon and silver, accounting for 60% of the module’s value. To do this, you would need high-temperature thermal and chemical treatments on top of the mechanical steps, which translates into higher costs.
Recovering silicon may not even be enough to offset the cost. That’s what researchers found out when assessing the feasibility of a 2,000-ton recycling plant. According to scientists, the process wouldn’t be profitable as, unlike thin-film modules, silicon-based panels lack valuable metals like indium and gallium.
Besides their low intrinsic economic value, solar panels are fragile and could be classified as hazardous waste when they fail a heavy metals leach test. This means you need a specialized workforce, treatment, packaging, and transport to handle them safely.
Not to mention the potential environmental impact of contaminating the soil and groundwater with nasty chemicals like lead and cadmium when being chucked into a landfill. As reported by the LA Times, panels go through a treatment, such as glass laminate encapsulation (GLE).
This process seals the panel and minimizes heavy metals leaching out. Researchers simulated and ran multiple tests on the effect of GLE on lead leaching potential. How well does it work? In one case, GLE reduced the lead mobility by up to 9 times, making it nearly harmless for the environment.
However, one of the tests revealed that GLE was not enough to limit lead spreading. Factoring in solar panel disposal and panels getting early retirement for newer more efficient panels, the Harvard Business Review predicted that the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of solar panels could quadruple by 2035.
I think that’s a little aggressive, but we’re in uncharted territory here. The absence of a nation-wide law mandating recycling doesn’t help either. In fact, only 5 states have put in place solar panels end-of-life policies so far.
With a solar trash wave looming, we’d better find a way to recycle more … and we need to be quick to stay ahead of it. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IEA), by 2050 we could have nearly 80 million metric tons worth of solar panel waste.
That sounds like a pile of solar garbage that could eclipse the sun. That sounds like something Mr. Burns could get behind. Clearly, the sun isn’t shining on solar panel recycling…yet … but we shouldn’t get stuck in doom and gloom here.
We’ve already managed to sort out similar problems in the past and we can learn from that. Let’s look at the lead acid batteries (LAB) success story, for instance. A study from the Battery Council International (BCI) reported a LAB recycling rate of 99% between 2014 and 2018 here in the US.
LABs are the most recycled American product today, but how long did it take us to get there? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we recycled around 70% of LABs on average in 1985.
Back then, lead price was so low that recycling LABs wasn’t economically attractive. It’s not that different from what we’re seeing today. Yet, pushed by strategic legislation, it began to ramp up.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was one of the most important nation-wide regulatory drivers. Signed off by the US government in 1976, this law identified some “metals of concern”, including lead.
it took us another 15 years or so to really see the impact. In the early 1990s, several
states finally banned LABs from landfills. On top of that, local authorities implemented some
policies to build their recycling supply chains.
First, they required retailers to accept used LABs from consumers, who were charged a deposit for each new battery bought without returning an old one. Also, a take back program forced manufacturers to purchase recycled LABs from retailers.
The benefit of this was that recycling LABs remained profitable even when the lead price plummeted. And these policies worked. One year after introducing them, Rhode Island increased its LAB recycling rate by up to 40%, reaching a whopping 95% rate in 1990.
While that was a localized exception at that time, BCI estimated that we reached a 99% recycling rate on a national scale in 2011. A relatively simple chemistry and a well-established technology such as pyrometallurgical smelting supercharged LABs recycling rate over the years.
On the other hand, LABs conventional recycling process is neither eco-friendly or safe, as it consumes a lot of energy and releases lead and greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere, which is why researchers have been focusing on the development of a greener method over the last decade.
On that note, something interesting has already come out of the lab. Instead of relying on the traditional smelting at over 1,000 °C, ACE Green Recycling has designed an electricity-powered LABs recycling process.
They’re going to start building their first plant in Texas very soon, which is scheduled to go live by the end of 2023. It’s expected to recycle over 5 million LABs and avoid 50,000 metric tons of GHG emissions once they reach full capacity.
Funny enough, the startup is looking into using solar panels to power their whole facility…I wonder if they’ll recycle their expertise to promote PV module recovery too. The LABs example highlights how far-sighted policies can catalyze recycling efforts.
Clearly, from the technological point of view,
the solar panels case is a bit more complex. However, researchers, companies, and regulators
are working to improve the cost-to-revenue ratio.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the main economic
challenges is to recover the higher-value materials like silicon and silver. The current
method to etch pure silicon out of solar cells means using hydrofluoric acid, which is
highly toxic and corrosive.
Last November, Indian researchers came up with a safer and more cost-effective recipe, including sodium hydroxide, nitric acid and phosphoric acid as ingredients. Adopting a 3-step sequential procedure, scientists not only extracted 99.998% pure silicon but also recovered silver. As a result, they estimated that integrating their technique into the recycling process of a 1-kg solar cell would yield a profit of around $185.
Just a month later, a team including Arizona State University (ASU) researchers, the TG companies startup, and the energy firm First Solar received a $485,000 grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for developing a process that recovers high-pure silicon and silver from PV cells.
So, what’s their silver lining? First, TG companies claim to have designed a heat treatment to boil off the EVA protective layer without damaging or contaminating the solar cell. Unlike conventional furnaces, their oven will operate at a temperature lower than 500°C, which prevents iron and copper from leaching into the solar cell.
At that point it gets a little fuzzy because they use their patent-pending secret sauce to isolate silicon and silver. Their CEO said they’ll rely on less harsh chemicals that can be regenerated indefinitely.
Having said that, as flagged by an industry expert, the startup may likely face material losses when separating silicon cells from their polymeric coating. It’s just a matter of waiting at least a couple of years to fact check their progress.
That’s when the startup is aiming to have their first pilot plant up and running, with a recycling target of 100,000 solar panels per year. Aside from research and private sector efforts, legislators need to do their part to power solar recycling, just like they did with lead acid batteries.
Europe has been a pioneer in this, labeling solar panels as e-waste since 2014. The Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive … known as WEEE … first defined the ‘extended producer responsibility’ concept.
In short, the regulation compels solar panel manufacturers to fund their own products recycling at the end of life. It also requires recycling 80% of the materials used in PV panels. This policy led to opportunities for the EU recycling market.
For instance, PV Cycle developed a recycling program to help manufacturers fulfill WEEE obligations. In February 2020, the EU-funded company recycled nearly 95% of solar module content in France, which is well above what’s required by WEEE.
They achieved this exceptional result by partnering with Veolia, who launched Europe’s first solar panels recycling plant in 2018. Leveraging robots, Veolia dismantles the solar sandwiches layer by layer and recovers silicon, silver, and other components.
It’s a completely different story here in the U.S. We’re light years behind. In America, the only law holding producers accountable for solar panel recycling won’t go live until 2025, which means consumers are still paying the price for it.
Although they aren’t shifting recycling costs and responsibilities from user to producer, California has switched their solar panel waste label from hazardous to universal hazardous in 2021.
Falling in this new category, PV modules collection, transport, and storage are subject to less stringent requirements. For instance, recyclers won’t have to perform any leaching tests, which is costly and time-consuming.
According to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), their regulation will trigger the recycling of at least 15% of the PV modules currently in use. However, some of the policy’s critics highlighted a couple of drawbacks.
First, the requirements for recycling PV modules are essentially the same as those for their disposal in a landfill. And that’s a big problem since the landfill is currently much cheaper.
In addition, California’s regulation doesn’t allow recyclers to apply the thermal and chemical methods commonly used today. While binding rules are lacking, in 2016 the SEIA introduced a voluntary recycling program similar to that run by PC Cycle in Europe.
As of 2020, a few manufacturers, including First Solar, had joined their initiative and helped them recycle over 4M pounds worth of PV modules and related equipment. Although recycling solar panels is currently an expensive process, it could pay off in the long run.
In a recent report, Rystad Energy estimated that the value of recycling solar panels materials could reach $2.7 billion in 2030. Multiply that 30x to get their 2050 overall market potential. The main drivers of this crazy growth would be rising energy costs, technological advancements, and regulatory push.
Speaking of rules, researchers from the National Renewable Laboratory (NREL) published a paper last year advising policymakers on how to create a financially viable solar panel industry. Their main suggestion was to subsidize the cost of recycling.
To be more specific, with a $18 incentive, we could profitably recycle 20% of our PV modules by 2032. And this could get even better as recycling technology becomes more efficient. In particular, recovering 94% of the silver and 97% of the silicon contained in the PV modules would be a significant profitability booster.
Giving a second life to all solar panel components would not only reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills but also shrink the demand for new materials. Besides boosting recycling profitability, regulations should make landfilling less convenient.
While being in its early days, new recycling technology could improve the recovery of PV modules’ precious materials such as silicon and silver. Although optimizing solar panels recycling may take us longer compared to LABs, it’s just a matter of time.
We’re actually seeing this type of recycling improvement happen in the lithium ion
battery market right now … but that’s a different video. What’s exciting is that, once the kinks
are worked out, this could lead to huge market opportunities.
It could be a win for the economy and the environment if we play our cards right. If you’d like to learn more about the science behind solar panel recycling, I’d strongly recommend checking out either the “Scientific Thinking” or “The Chemical Reaction” course at Brilliant.
They have fantastic interactive courses that can help you wrap your head around some of
what we talked about with solar panels. The chemical reaction course walks you through
how matter transforms from starting materials into other substances.
You’ll work through puzzles and patterns to determine the basic behavior of molecules undergoing chemical reactions. All of this plays a role in how we can install solar panels in Maine. I’ve been working my way through that one and am really enjoying learning at my own pace.
If you get stuck, Brilliant will give you in-depth
explanations, which helps you understand the “why” and “how” of something. And you’re learning the
concepts by doing it yourself and applying them through fun and interactive problems.
Thanks to Brilliant and to all of you for supporting the channel. So are you still undecided? Do you think solar panel recycling will catch up to the coming wave of solar panel waste? Jump into the comments and let me know and be sure to check out my follow up podcast Still TBD where we’ll be discussing some of your feedback.
If you liked this video, be sure to check out one of these videos over here. And thanks to all of my patrons for your continued support and welcome to new supporter + members Thomas Merritt and David R T Richardson, and producers Sergio Martinez and Andrew Peabody.
And thanks to all of you for watching.
I’ll see you in the next one.
It’s been almost 4 years since I had solar panels installed on my house, which is located in Massachusetts. In general they’ve been performing pretty close to what was promised, but last year threw us some curveballs that made me a little concerned.
I saw a pretty sharp decline in the amount of solar produced. Since my solar panels are nearing their 4 year anniversary, I thought it would be a good idea to share what I’ve learned living with solar panels in an area you might not think they’d be good for, as well as what happened last year.
Do I still think getting solar panels was a good idea? Let’s see if we can come to a decision on this. I’m Matt Ferrell … welcome to Undecided. If you haven’t seen my previous videos on my solar panel installation, I’ll include links in the description so you can check them out.
I won’t rehash everything from those videos, but in short, I live in the Boston area and have been documenting what it’s been like living with a 9.49 kW solar panel system in a colder climate.
My wife and I decided to get solar installed for two reasons: 1) reduce our electric bill and save money over time, and 2) get as much of our electricity from clean sources as possible. There’s no question where my electricity is coming from when it’s being produced on my roof.
You could probably also include a third reason to the mix, my Tesla Model 3. Charging up your EV with electricity that you generate yourself is pretty cool. I guess you could say the idea of energy independence is enticing.
My house has a few challenges. If you live in the northern hemisphere, it’s best to have a southern facing roof to maximize your solar production, but my house is oriented more east-to-west.
That’s why I have panels on both sides of my roof, so I can capture morning and afternoon sun. The
second issue is that my roof is pretty small. And finally, I have a fair amount of trees on the
western side of my house that start to block the sun in the mid-to-late afternoon.
Like I said, my house is a bit challenging for solar. For the past few years my solar panels have reduced our reliance on the grid by about 54%, which is what we expected given my home’s issues.
We’re still on track for the system to have paid for itself in savings by 2026 (it’s a 7-8 year payback), but there’s some wrinkles to that I’ll get to in a bit. First though, I’ve got to get into last year’s issues.
We saw a pretty steep drop in performance in 2021, but it’s really important to give these
numbers some context. If you don’t have solar, it’s easy to armchair quarterback and
ridicule solar as a waste of money.
Weather is going to be a huge factor in how well your solar panels work. The criticism is usually, if a meteorologist struggles to predict the weather a week out, how can you predict years of solar production.
On that first point about degradation, it’s absolutely true that you’ll see a decline year over year. However, if you have quality made panels from the major manufacturers, those panels will last 30+ years.
For these panels you’ll have warranties that guarantee minimal losses over the next 20 years, but that’s not end of life … that’s just the warranty period. In my case I have LG solar panels on my home that are guaranteed to produce at least 88.
4% of their original efficiency, which means you’re talking about a .5% drop each year. And that’s why I had to raise an eyebrow at last year’s numbers. My solar installer offered a 10 year production guarantee.
If my panels produce less than 95% of their projection, they’ll pay the difference
in the cost of electricity. They projected that we’d be producing close to 6,600
kWh each year for the first few years, but last year we produced only 6,479 kWh.
The year before we produced 7,293 kWh. So comparing 2021 to 2020, we saw an 11% drop in production. So yeah … I was a little perplexed, frustrated, with a dash of concern. To add to that our electricity use had increased slightly because my wife started working from home due to the pandemic, and our electricity prices had risen … a lot.
Back when we got the solar panels installed
we were paying about $0.24/kWh. Now we’re paying about $0.30/kWh. On average we use roughly
950 kWh per month over the course of a year, so you’re talking about going from a potential
bill of $228 a few years ago to $285 today.
That’s when the data nerd in me kicked into gear and I started crunching the numbers
to figure out what was going on. But before getting to what I found,
there’s some other numbers worth crunching.
I’ve been asked on previous solar panel videos how
much my home insurance went up with solar panels, and that really depends on your provider. My home
insurance didn’t change at all with solar, but we’re planning on moving at some point soon, so
we’ve been looking to see if there are some better deals for our home and auto insurance.
where today’s sponsor, Policygenius, comes in. Policygenius makes it crazy easy to find and
compare insurance coverage that’s just right for you. They don’t sell your personal info to third
parties, they have thousands of five-star reviews on Google and Trustpilot, and they’ve helped over
30 million people shop for insurance since 2014.
It couldn’t be easier to get started.
Head over to policygenius.com/undecided and answer a few quick questions
about yourself and your property. Policygenius will show you price estimates
for the types of policies you’re looking for.
Their team of experts look for ways to save you
more, especially when you bundle your home & auto insurance. And finally, Policygenius works for
you, not the insurance companies, so if they find a better rate than what you’re paying now,
they’ll switch you over for free.
Policygenius has saved customers an average of $1,250 per year over
what they were paying for home & auto insurance. Head over to policygenius.com/undecided to
get your free home & auto insurance quotes and see how much you could save.
to Policygenius and to all of you for supporting the channel. Now back to what I found
after digging into my solar production data. When looking at your solar panel production,
it’s important to not focus and obsess on the day-to-day numbers.
to be an incredible amount of volatility day to day depending on the weather.
Cloudy days, rain, snow, etc. It all depends, so you have to look longer
term when assessing how it’s performing and if it’s worth the cost of the system.
It’s the same
reason my solar installer does a yearly guarantee. Take a look at my monthly numbers year over
year and you’ll start to spot some clear trends. Summer is obviously going to be peak production
because of the increased daylight hours and the sun being at a higher angle in the sky.
During winter you have shorter days and a lower angle of sun. The yearly trend looks a lot
like a daily trend. Very low production in the winter and none at night, and a swell
during the summer months or middle of the day.
However, something should jump out at you
on this chart. The 2021 numbers between May and September are dramatically
lower than the years before it. I knew weather was going to play a role in how
effective my panels would perform, but I didn’t expect such a huge swing to happen year over
That’s when I pulled up the historical weather data for my area. If you overlay the
amount of precipitation on top of the solar production chart, the correlation is pretty clear.
Here in the New England area, 2021 was one of the warmest and wettest on record, especially if you
look at the July, August, and September data.
2021 was the third warmest on record going all
the way back to 1895. It was also the third wettest year on record and July 2021 coming in
as the wettest month on record. Massachusetts typically sees about 4 inches of rain in July,
but last year we saw an average of 10.
3 inches. So the mystery was solved for why 2021’s production was so low. It wasn’t anything wrong with my panels, inverters, or other hardware. Thankfully, if you look at what we’ve seen so far in 2022, everything is back to normal.
In fact, April’s production numbers were the best we’ve seen so far after four years of data. While you might think this challenged my belief in only vetting solar production numbers year to year vs. day to day, and that weather doesn’t really factor in too much long term, it hasn’t. 2021’s yearly number came in at 6,479.6 kWh with a prediction from my installer of 6,549 kWh. That prediction was off by about 1%, which really isn’t bad at all.
The variability in seasonal weather conditions is factored into historical data that solar installers pull from to make their future production numbers. And from what I’m seeing, it’s pretty accurate … even though I’ve seen wild swings between a couple of years.
2020 was about 10.8% higher than predicted. They worked out the prediction on the conservative side of what we might see. And that brings me to the giant question of, “do I still think it was worth it?” If you’ve watched my previous videos on my solar panels, you’ll know that I’ve said in each one of these that the answer is yes.
But you’ll also know that I always stress very hard that it’s going to depend on what your personal goals are. Anyone that tells you that solar panels are worth it no matter what should be ignored.
And the same is true from anyone that says solar panels are a scam and will never work. Solar panels are just one method of producing electricity and don’t necessarily make sense for every person in every location and situation.
For me, I live in an area without time of use electricity rates, but we do have net metering that pays back nearly a 1 to 1 credit on my electricity bill. So we bank some credits in the summer that wipe out our electric bills in those months and into the fall.
And during the winter we’re primarily pulling from the grid like anyone else. We also have solar renewable energy credits (SREC). We’re getting $126.22 a month in SREC credits for 10 years, so we’ll be seeing $15,146 from that.
That leaves us on the hook for $12,380 out of pocket for the cost of our solar panels. But then you have to look at the money we’re saving on our electric bill. We were spending about $2,600 a year on electricity, but we’ve been saving almost $1,500 a year with solar.
And since our electricity prices have risen to $0.30/kWh, our savings has actually gone up a little bit. All of that rolled together is how our solar panel system will pay for itself sometime in 2026, and the panels should easily go another 20 years or more after that, so they’ll be producing free, clean electricity at that point.
Again, I can’t say this enough, the warranty period is not the end of life for the panel. But here’s that wrinkle I brought up earlier about my specific return on investment. I’m not going to be living in my house in 2026.
I’m not going to be living in this house a year from now. My wife and I are building a new, modular, net zero home this year and will hopefully be moving in early next year. That means we’ll be selling our current home with the solar panels before they’ve returned on the investment, which means we’re only about halfway into that payback period.
Am I going to lose out on that money? Am I going to have a hard time selling my home with solar panels on it? On that first point, no, I’m not going to be selling my solar panels at a loss.
A home’s value actually increases with solar panels. It’s not that different from doing a kitchen or bathroom renovation. And solar panels are very popular in my area. Energysage has a great article that details the impacts to a home’s value.
According to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which used data from 8 states over an 11 year time period, you can expect to see $4 per watt of installed solar capacity added to the value of your home.
In my case, that could be a $38,000 increase. To me that sounds too high. But according to Zillow, they saw homes with solar panels selling for 4.1% more. And the National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported seeing an increase in home value by $20 for every $1 reduction in annual utility bills.
That math would work out to about $30,000 for my house, which isn’t that far off from the first study. The bottom line: the more money your solar panels save you on electricity, the more it increases your house’s value.
I won’t have to wait too much longer to find out if that holds true, so stay tuned to the channel if you want to hear how it went selling a house with solar, as well as a ton of videos around my upcoming house build.
So do I still think getting solar panels for my home was worth it. That’s a big yes. For my goals, which was saving money on electricity over time and ensuring my power was coming from a clean energy source, it ticked all the boxes.
system cost $20,727 after the Federal Tax Credit. By the time we leave this house, we’ll have
received about $6,000 in SREC payments. About $1,500 a year in electricity savings, so add
another $6000 on top of that.
We’ll have whittled the payback down to about $8,000 by the time we leave. And if the $30,000 increase in value holds true, the return on investment will have been well worth it … but that wasn’t my only goal.
Again, I did this for some energy independence and to ensure I was getting energy from a clean source. Would I recommend that you get solar? That’s tricky because I don’t know your goals, where you live, or what costs are in your area, so you’re going to need to do that evaluation for yourself.
But if you are thinking about it, don’t wait much longer. If you live in the US, the Federal solar tax credit is going to be dropping from 26% to 22% in 2023. Solar installers book up fast, so you really need to be scheduling installers now to ensure you get the panels installed before the end of the year.
I’ve been getting quotes for my new house and installers are already booked up through August and into September. So start looking today and evaluating if it’s the right choice for you. And on that note, you should check out EnergySage for great articles and reviews of solar equipment.
I’ve found them to be an amazing resource
when researching my current installation, as well as my next one. I also used Energysage
to find my installer on my current house. If you live in the US, check out my Energysage portal to
find installers in your area and get quotes.
Full transparency, this is an affiliate program, so I do get a small commission if you use my portal. But regardless of that, I love Energysage and find them a great resource. My favorite part of finding an installer through them is that you’re not giving out your phone number to get deluged with dozens of calls.
All of the quotes are delivered
to your Energysage account and are presented in a way that’s an easy apples-to-apples comparison
between installers. I strongly recommend it. So what do you think? Do you want solar for your
home? Jump into the comments and let me know.
If you liked this video, be sure to check out
one of these videos over here. And thanks to all of my patrons for your continued support
and welcome to new producers Michael Maxie, Greg MacWilliam, and J.
And thanks to all of
you for watching. I’ll see you in the next one.
The Earth intercepts a lot of solar power: 173 thousand terawatts. That’s ten thousand times more power than the planet’s population uses. So is it possible that one day the world could be completely reliant on solar energy? To answer that question, we first need to examine how solar panels convert solar energy to electrical energy.
Solar panels are made up of smaller units called solar cells. The most common solar cells are made from silicon, a semiconductor that is the second most abundant element on Earth. In a solar cell, crystalline silicon is sandwiched between conductive layers.
Each silicon atom is connected to its neighbors by four strong bonds, which keep the electrons in place so no current can flow. Here’s the key: a silicon solar cell uses two different layers of silicon.
An n-type silicon has extra electrons, and p-type silicon has extra spaces
for electrons, called holes. Where the two types of silicon meet, electrons can wander across
the p/n junction, leaving a positive charge on one side and creating negative charge on the other.
You can think of light as the flow of tiny particles called photons, shooting out from the Sun. When one of these photons strikes the silicon cell with enough energy, it can knock an electron from its bond, leaving a hole.
The negatively charged electron and
location of the positively charged hole are now free to move around. But because of the electric field
at the p/n junction, they’ll only go one way. The electron is drawn to the n-side, while the hole is drawn to the p-side.
The mobile electrons are collected by
thin metal fingers at the top of the cell. From there, they flow through
an external circuit, doing electrical work, like powering a lightbulb, before returning through the conductive
aluminum sheet on the back.
Electrons are the only moving parts in a solar cell, and they all go back where they came from. There’s nothing to get worn out or used up, so solar cells can last for decades. So what’s stopping us from being completely reliant on solar power? There are political factors at play, not to mention businesses that lobby to maintain the status quo.
But for now, let’s focus on the physical
and logistical challenges, and the most obvious of those is that solar energy
is unevenly distributed across the planet. Some areas are sunnier than others. It’s also inconsistent.
Less solar energy is available on cloudy days or at night. So a total reliance would require efficient ways to get electricity from sunny spots to cloudy ones, and effective storage of energy. The efficiency of the cell itself is a challenge, too.
If sunlight is reflected instead of absorbed, or if dislodged electrons fall back into a hole before going through the circuit, that photon’s energy is lost. The most efficient solar cell yet still only converts 46% of the available sunlight to electricity, and most commercial systems are currently 15-20% efficient.
In spite of these limitations, it actually would be possible to power the entire world with today’s solar technology. We’d need the funding to build the infrastructure and a good deal of space. Estimates range from tens to hundreds of thousands of square miles, which seems like a lot, but the Sahara Desert alone is over 3 million square miles in area.
Meanwhile, solar cells are getting better, cheaper, and are competing with electricity from the grid. And innovations, like floating solar farms, may change the landscape entirely. Thought experiments aside, there’s the fact that over a billion people don’t have access to a reliable electric grid, especially in developing countries, many of which are sunny.
So in places like that, solar energy is already much cheaper and safer than available alternatives, like kerosene. For say, Finland or Seattle, though, effective solar energy may still be a little way off. Solar panels in Maine, however, are a wise investment.
Energy prices in Europe are soaring. Some point to regulation as the major culprit, others point to geopolitical events. Regardless of the cause, those sky high energy prices are driving demand for alternative sources of energy, especially green, renewable, and inflation proof.
According to the report, an eye-popping 41.4 Gigawatts of solar energy has been added this year. That’s a 46% increase as compared to the 28.1 Gigawatts added last year.
While we love to see the industry flourish this way, this spectacular growth rate can add to the supply issues currently being seen globally. Let’s face it, manufacturing capacity in not growing as fast as demand, which leads to bottlenecks, delays, and lack of equipment availability.
If given the choice between clean energy, and pollution-laced energy sources, the vast majority of people would opt for the former. As we previously reported, the solar industry is experiencing tremendous growth.
There is, however, one obscure bottleneck that is hindering the growth of the solar industry in the U.S. in a very, very, very significant way.
The demand from the public is there. Developers are there with proposed projects to meet demand. The problem lies with the ability to connect those proposed renewable energy projects to the grid.
To understand the lines blocking the U.S.’s progress on climate change, you first have to understand a bit about how the electricity grid works. It’s easiest to think about the grid — which carries electrons — like the country’s roads carrying cars.
When an energy developer wants to build a new power plant, they have to submit an application to see how adding that facility will affect the grid — sort of like trying to build an on-ramp onto a big interstate highway, according to Joe Rand, a senior engineering associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Regional authorities have to check to make sure that the highway can accommodate a new on-ramp without causing traffic pileups. In the same way that an authority might ask the road-builder to pay for the construction of the on-ramp — or, if the highway is really congested already, to pay to add an extra lane — regional authorities ask energy developers to pay to connect their solar or wind farms to the grid.
Getting the okay to connect has gotten harder and harder. According to Rand’s research, between 2000 and 2010 it took around two years for a project to make it through the queue. Now, it’s taking almost twice as long. At the end of 2021, there were 8,100 projects sitting in line, waiting for permission to get connected. Together, they represent more than the combined power capacity of all U.S. electricity plants.”
The term “floatovoltaics” is not one that most people are familiar with – yet. However, a growing interest in solar panels installed on water – floating – should propel the term into everyday vernacular.
It begin in California; the year was 2008. The world’s first floating solar farm was installed at an irrigation pond at a winery. Rather than dedicate a portion of productive land, the winery chose to locate the solar panels on a pond.
This method to save land space has been dubbed “floatovoltaics,” a shortened combination of “floating” and “photovoltaics.”
The idea is rapidly growing in popularity.
Rather than clear forestland, or eliminate a portion of farming on fertile farmland, the installation of a solar panel system on a body of water reduces the amount of land needed that’s dedicated to ground mounting.
“Floatovoltaics are one of the fastest-growing power generation technologies today and a promising low-carbon energy source,” said aquatic ecosystem ecologist Rafael Almeida, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Almeida explained that ideally, floating panels are placed in human-made bodies of water, such as irrigation channels and the reservoirs of hydropower plants, not taking up land that could otherwise be used for nature preserves or food production. Reservoirs at hydropower plants, especially, have the advantage of already having the infrastructure to distribute electricity.
Almeida and his colleagues calculated the potential of countries worldwide to use floatovoltaics on the basis of the area of their hydropower reservoirs. They found that countries in Africa and the Americas have the highest potential of generating energy through the technology. Brazil and Canada, for example, could become leaders in the sector because they require only about 5% reservoir coverage to meet all their solar energy demands until midcentury.”
Fast food giant McDonald’s is going solar in a very big way. The fast food chain, based in Chicago, along with its distributors, has announced an arrangement to buy enough solar power to supply 100% of the energy needs of its logistics supply chain in the United States.
The Blue Jay solar project is currently under construction and is not yet operational. It is anticipated to begin providing solar power to the grid at some point in 2023.
Restaurant Business reports:
McDonald’s and all five members of its North American Logistics Council, including Armada, Earp Distribution, Martin Brower, Mile Hi Foods and The Anderson-DuBose Co, will acquire renewable energy and renewable energy certificates (RECs) from Enel North America’s Blue Jay solar project in Grimes County, Tex.
The Blue Jay solar project is expected to be operational in 2023. Once complete, McDonald’s and its suppliers will purchase an estimated 470,000-megawatt hours of renewable energy every year. The company said it’s enough to avoid 170,000 metric tons of carbon emissions or about 80 million trucking miles.
“This deal is a unique example of how McDonald’s and its logistics partners are combining efforts to leverage their reach and scale to tackle supply chain emissions together,” Bob Stewart, North America chief supply chain officer for McDonald’s, said in a statement.
McDonald’s has been making investments in renewable energy for years as part of broader environmental goals to become more sustainable. The company has vowed to achieve “net zero emissions” by 2050 as part of an effort to limit the impact of climate change.
Tokyo, the capital of Japan, with a population of 13.96 million residents, has just passed a new regulation that requires large-scale builders of new homes to install solar panels on every new home built beginning in April of 2025.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike noted that currently only about 4% of homes within the city that could have a solar panel system actually do. The governor aims to halve the annual greenhoure gas emissions by the year 2030, as compared to the year 2000 emissions.
“Large-scale homebuilders after April 2025 must install solar power panels to cut household carbon emissions, according to a new regulation passed by the Japanese capital’s local assembly Thursday.
The mandate, the first of its kind for a Japanese municipality, requires about 50 major builders to equip homes of up to 2,000 square meters (21,500 square feet) with renewable energy power sources, mainly solar panels.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike noted last week that just 4% of buildings where solar panels could be installed in the city have them now. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government aims to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with 2000 levels.”
Bloomberg began keeping track of lithium battery prices eleven years ago. For the entire period, every year saw sizable declines in the price per kilowatt-hour of lithium battery storage.
In 2013, the price per kWh in US Dollars was over $700. Year-by-year, as lithium battery production surged, economy of scale brought down the price. By 2021, the price had fallen to US$137/kWh.
That’s a substantial cost reduction, to say the least.
However, it appears that economy of scale has reached its limits, with the price rising this year to US$151/kWh.
While some economic forecasters are hopeful that the 7% year-over-year increase in price is a one-off, other forecasters are pointing to a projected lack of supply – due to exploding demand – as the fuel for a new trend of ever increasing prices.
Our opinion is more in line with the latter. We believe that inflation is going to really hit hard, and that prices of solar equipment – including battery banks for solar energy storage – will soar in the coming years.
“Lithium-ion battery pack prices have gone up 7% in 2022, marking the first time that prices have risen since BloombergNEF began its surveys in 2010.
The finding that average pack prices for electric vehicles (EVs) and battery energy storage systems (BESS) have increased globally in real terms to US$151/kWh confirms the consequences of what the industry has been confronted with in recent months. It follows years of consistent declines of close to 10% every 12 months.
Widely reported challenges have come from global battery supply chain constraints causing material and component cost rises, logistics issues caused by COVID-19 and soaring inflation.”
The Maine Audubon Society has just published an article in which the organization is highly favorable towards 3 recent solar panel installations in southern Maine. Stating that climate change is the number one threat to birds and other wildlife in Maine, the society “cheered on the growth of local solar energy” of late.
Maine Audubon acknowledges that the placement of large scale solar farms can reduce the habitat available to wildlife, and is eager to see responsible location planning.
The placement of three solar energy generation systems in southern Maine have been highlighted by the society as wonderful examples of proper location selection.
“Rick Dyer, a fourth-generation farmer in Monmouth, knew he needed to diversify if he wanted to keep his dairy farm in operation, and considered whether solar development on a portion of his land might provide stability. He worked with Longroad Energy to produce 4.95 megawatts of solar energy on about 36 acres of his 1,000 acre property.”
“Disturbed roadside lands are an ideal spot for solar development. The land can’t be used for housing or agriculture, and is too small and dangerous to be quality wildlife habitat. In fact, encouraging wildlife to use highway lands is dangerous both to wildlife and to drivers, and the Augusta interchange being developed was known locally as a hotspot for deer-car collisions. Furthermore, using highway lands may reduce the need for long transmission lines or new access roads due to the fact that they are often proximate to existing development.”
“Another ideal location for solar development is a capped landfill, which, like highway interchanges, cannot be used for other purposes. There are thousands of landfills in the country and, along with places like brownfields, parking lots, rooftops, idle or underutilized industrial or commercial sites, and sand and gravel pits, they can host solar panels without losing high-value wildlife habitat or agricultural land.”
The solar industry is growing by leaps and bounds. This is the result of a positive feedback loop that is beneficial all the way around. As more and more people discover the benefits of solar energy, this creates new demand. The increased demand encourages manufacturers of solar equipment to scale up production. As productions is increased, economy of scale brings down prices. As prices come down, this encourages even more demand.
And around and around the positive feedback loop goes.
Additionally, with swelling demand for renewable, clean solar power, researchers are devoting more time and money into the field in hopes of creating a new solar technology that could reap potentially billions of dollars in profits.
When the solar energy industry was a small specialty field, big money flowing into research wasn’t worth the potential reward.
However, the solar industry has matured, and is rapidly becoming mainstream. This attracts research funding.
Research funding incubates new inventions.
And the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have just announced a breakthrough “ultralight fabric solar cell that can quickly and easily turn any surface into a power source.”
“These durable, flexible solar cells, which are much thinner than a human hair, are glued to a strong, lightweight fabric, making them easy to install on a fixed surface. They can provide energy on the go as a wearable power fabric or be transported and rapidly deployed in remote locations for assistance in emergencies. They are one-hundredth the weight of conventional solar panels, generate 18 times more power-per-kilogram, and are made from semiconducting inks using printing processes that can be scaled in the future to large-area manufacturing.
Because they are so thin and lightweight, these solar cells can be laminated onto many different surfaces. For instance, they could be integrated onto the sails of a boat to provide power while at sea, adhered onto tents and tarps that are deployed in disaster recovery operations, or applied onto the wings of drones to extend their flying range. This lightweight solar technology can be easily integrated into built environments with minimal installation needs.”
A 60-day public comment period has commenced this week on a proposal to add 1 gigawatt of clean, renewable energy from solar. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis announced new programs to encourage solar energy projects on public lands across the western United States and help meet the Biden-Harris administration’s ambitious solar power based renewable energy goals.
From the press release:
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will develop an updated plan to guide responsible solar energy development on public lands through an updated Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which will help accelerate and continue momentum for the clean energy economy. The BLM is also initiating reviews of three proposed solar projects in Arizona that could add one gigawatt of clean energy to the grid.
“This Administration is committed to expanding clean energy development to address climate change, enhance America’s energy security and provide for good-paying union jobs,” said Secretary Haaland. “Our review of these proposed projects in Arizona, and a new analysis of the role public lands can play in furthering solar energy production, will help ensure we keep the momentum going to build a clean energy future, lower costs for families and create robust conservation outcomes on the nation’s lands and waters.”
The fire hazard danger of lithium ion batteries is real. While instances of solar battery arrays catching fire are not common, they do occur.
When a lithium ion battery of any size catches fire, it cannot be extinguished with water. Additionally, there is a very high risk of explosion once the fire has begun.
It is for these reasons that firefighters in Maryland were recently warned by county commissioners that they are not equipped to respond to these types of fires. The Star Democrat reports:
Volunteer firefighters from several departments met with Caroline County Commissioners Wilber Levengood and Larry Porter Oct. 17 to discuss the dangers of lithium ion batteries that are used to store power from solar arrays. The commissioners warned firefighters to not even respond to fire calls for fires from these explosive chemical batteries that can not be extinguished with water.
The commissioners reference a solar battery array in Arizona that caught fire. As the firefighters were attempting to extinguish the fire, an explosion occurred, resulting in serious injury:
There is a horrific account about seriously injured firefighters from Peoria, Arizona, who responded to a lithium ion solar battery fire that exploded. Broken legs, lost teeth, chemical burns — the injuries were extensive.