Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

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We have been researching putting in a grid tied 8Kw system and getting bids from different installers. We have good sun exposure and electricity is expensive in our area, so a system would pay itself off in 7-10 years, depending on how we financed it. I also researched purchasing the panels/equipment myself and paying an electrician to install it, but it doesn't seem like it would be that much cheaper. We've gotten bids for as low as $52,000 for an 8 kW (DC) system, which after the current state rebates/tax credits would bring it down to around $30,000 installed, including taxes/permits. That still seems like a lot of money, and I keep reading various articles about how the prices for solar panels are projected to drop 20-50% this year with the decline in both the economy and price of silicon. I'm worried it will be like flat screen tvs and next year they will be giving away panels. I also keep waiting for the latest technological breakthrough that will solve all problems of inefficiencies/shading whatever. It always seems like some fabulous new technology is right around the corner, whether it's the Ecojoule inverter or microinverters, or a cheaper panel, but maybe these are are all puffery. In the mean time, solar installers in our area are desperate with the downturn in the economy and they been saying things like "name your price." Any thoughts on where things are going?

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  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    ,

    If you have (or can get) the money I would, IMHO go for it. The "next big thing" is always just around the corner. The current technology is mature enough to be reliable. Your local installers who are willing to negotiate because of the current economic climate you are likely to make the best deal ever. That doesn't mean that 3 years from now things will be net/net cheaper, but if the numbers pencil now,, go for it!

    Tony

    PS. I am off grid, so I'm sure that others will chime in.
  • Brock
    Brock Solar Expert Posts: 639 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    I keep debating about buying more panels right now. I am afraid if the 30% tax rebate does happen solar panel prices will jump at least 30% because of the demand for them. On the other hand if you were to buy them now and the rebate doesn't happen the panel prices could continue their slow price decrease as they have been over time.

    I wouldn’t factor in any sudden new break through technology reducing the cost significantly, which has been out there since they started making solar panels.
    3kw solar PV, 4 LiFePO4 100a, xw 6048, Honda eu2000i, iota DLS-54-13, Tesla 3, Leaf, Volt, 4 ton horizontal geothermal, grid tied - Green Bay, WI
  • Windsun
    Windsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year
    Brock wrote: »
    I keep debating about buying more panels right now. I am afraid if the 30% tax rebate does happen solar panel prices will jump at least 30% because of the demand for them.

    Uhmm... The rebate already happened, several months ago.
  • Ecnerwal
    Ecnerwal Solar Expert Posts: 101 ✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    The next big thing basically never arrives, or costs as much as the current thing when it does. I've been following solar electric since about 1991 ($6/watt, perhaps $10/watt?). It dropped very gradually to a widespread low of about $3/watt in 2003 or 4, then started back up for a while, and is now settling back down to $3/4 a watt for the best price (not the average or most widespread price) - just for the panels, not the whole system.

    In that time one or two "breakthrough technologies" have actually happened, and they have proved to be at least as expensive if not more expensive than "the standard". The classic on this line is the flexible unisolar panels, trumpeted as being cheap because they were pumped out on a roll that could be miles long, and it was all plastic (more or less). In fact, they can charge more because the product is flexible, and they do. Tens or hundreds of announced "sub-dollar-a-watt" breakthroughs have failed to happen at all.

    Believe in no solar hype until you can get one delivered to your house, by the application of plain old cash and without being anybody famous. All else is lies, and most (the very vast majority) go nowhere.

    There are some claims that a good old fashioned supply/demand type of effect will hit the market with "the economic crisis". However, if markets were that easy to predict accurately, we'd all make millions in the stock market, or nobody would. On the one hand some folks have lost jobs and have less to spend on solar - on the other hand some have pulled their money out of markets and might invest it in their own power - it's hard to say for sure how things will shake out. If producers find the market softening, supply may dry up as they cut production and turn elsewhere...

    Largely through an allergy to debt I've waited nigh onto 5 years to get seriously going on my system (I didn't have anywhere to put one in 1991, but I thought I might want to eventually, and read home power for while). If I had bought it when I started looking, I'd have paid the lowest prices per watt that have been available for those 5 years - so waiting is not always a good thing. On the other hand, the rest of the system components have gotten much better. On the third hand code has gotten much more overbearing (one hopes also making it safer, on the fourth hand).

    Have you put effort and money into conservation? That is always the biggest payoff in solar electricity, even when you are grid connected.
  • Brock
    Brock Solar Expert Posts: 639 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year
    Windsun wrote: »
    Uhmm... The rebate already happened, several months ago.

    True, but right now the 30% capped at $2000, the wording in the current bill strikes out the $2000 cap, so you could get quite a bit more. For instance on a $50,000 installed grid tie system, in 2008 you could get $2000 back if the bill passes as is and installed and powered up in 2009 you would get $15,000 back.
    3kw solar PV, 4 LiFePO4 100a, xw 6048, Honda eu2000i, iota DLS-54-13, Tesla 3, Leaf, Volt, 4 ton horizontal geothermal, grid tied - Green Bay, WI
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,468 admin
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    Panel prices will probably collapse--somewhat (inverter costs, flat to increasing with inflation). Government Rebates/Tax credits will allow vendors to up the price (just about equal to the value of the rebate).

    In the next year or two, we will probably be seeing the start of hyperinflation (IMHO). Generally spending the money sooner (on real/useful property) is about the only thing you can do with high inflation...

    On the other hand, check your property tax rates (are you charged property tax on on your solar installation)? Also, are you able to pay cash (or a very loan interest rate) for your installation...

    For the most part, your real return on solar (when simply broken down into [total capital and maintenance costs over 20 years + taxes + etc./ 20 years of electricity production]) is not really that great. So, the "little things" (like taxes and loans) add up to wreck any return on investment type calculations.

    And--in California we are probably going to be hit with "Real Time Pricing" for our electric power... At this point, there is no known economic model that we can overlay my GT Solar production vs the 1 Year Net Metering program. More than likely, early to mid-evening kWhr pricing will go up (when solar GT is not producing energy)... It may be balanced out with early morning $/kWhr pricing going up too...

    In a way--your end result is figure out your final (estimated) $$/kWhr production costs--and decide if "fixing your power costs" is worth the investment. For me, I decided yes, and installed my own GT system ~3 years ago. It is "not making me money" yet--but I am still happy. If I ever get an in-town capable electric vehicle--it probably will make me money (California has a tiered power rate... Use 300 kWhrs or less, $0.09-$0.12 per kWhr; use over 1,000 kWhrs, $0.30-$0.58 per kWhr--the electric vehicle would push me into the more expensive rates).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • hillbilly
    hillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I got the impression that the $2000 cap was lifted already. Did this change or something???
  • Brock
    Brock Solar Expert Posts: 639 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    My understanding was the $2000 was part of the new package, or was that in the last one and it a done deal?
    3kw solar PV, 4 LiFePO4 100a, xw 6048, Honda eu2000i, iota DLS-54-13, Tesla 3, Leaf, Volt, 4 ton horizontal geothermal, grid tied - Green Bay, WI
  • Windsun
    Windsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year
    Brock wrote: »
    True, but right now the 30% capped at $2000, the wording in the current bill strikes out the $2000 cap, so you could get quite a bit more. For instance on a $50,000 installed grid tie system, in 2008 you could get $2000 back if the bill passes as is and installed and powered up in 2009 you would get $15,000 back.

    Like I said, that bill passed months ago.

    http://store.solar-electric.com/soentaxcr.html
  • Brock
    Brock Solar Expert Posts: 639 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    I was wrong, nothing new, Thanks!

    So has Wind & Sun seen an increase in solar panel sales?
    3kw solar PV, 4 LiFePO4 100a, xw 6048, Honda eu2000i, iota DLS-54-13, Tesla 3, Leaf, Volt, 4 ton horizontal geothermal, grid tied - Green Bay, WI
  • Windsun
    Windsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    Not a lot, but hard to tell this early in the year. "Solar Season" does not really start for a month or two.

    But with the tight credit and pork fever and the sky falling better than I expected for this time of year.

    Chicken Little was just misunderstood, you know..
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    I'd buy now. If/when utility rates go up, increased demand will bump up prices. And sooner you buy, sooner you can start your payback period
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    But what I am seeing now is a huge decrease in demand, and increasingly hungry installers. The tax credit can't be claimed until a year after you install the system, and combined with a collapse in home equity lines and general financing, and a drop that occurred in our state rebate program, means that most people can't afford the up front costs in our area. Those factors, combined with an oversupply of panels in the international marketplace, seems to indicate prices for panels will be dropping and installers will offer more competitive rates. The more research I do on it the more support there seems to be for waiting later in 2009. We've also been doing various things to try to make our house more energy efficient, and so far I've gotten our usage down by about 1/3. That means we may be able to get by with a 6Kw system, which would make it slightly more affordable.
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    i think you may be citing a few buckets of sand from the beach either way. the future is hard to predict and if one based it on whatifs, then one never would. though they try to make solar only a wall street commodity or only about the money savings aspects, it is still a renewable resource that costs a lot of money and either you want it or you don't.
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    An article here:
    http://www.edn.com/blog/1700000170/post/1210040521.html?nid=3351&rid=578436
    covers some of the thoughts, and reading the comments below the article, is, "informative".
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • Hoonose
    Hoonose Registered Users Posts: 16
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year
    valli wrote: »
    The tax credit can't be claimed until a year after you install the system

    Where did you see that?
    I plan on getting my tax credits on this years return, from my recently installed system.
  • Ecnerwal
    Ecnerwal Solar Expert Posts: 101 ✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    It has to do with the year of your tax return.

    The taxes you file in April of 2009 are for tax year 2008. If you had a system installed (and turned on/completed) in 2008, you can take the credit, as written for 2008. If the system is residential, that means you have the $2000 cap on the credit. If you spent more than $6667 on the system, you lose money.

    The taxes you file in April 2010 are for tax year 2009, and if you have a system which was completed/turned on in 2009, you can take 30% of the cost of the system, with no $2000 limit.

    If your system qualifies as a "business" install, there never was a $2000 limit - that was only residential.
  • rickeolis
    rickeolis Solar Expert Posts: 110 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    I've been doing solar for nearly 4 years now and since I have been involved, I have been hearing the promises of cheaper panels "just around the corner" year after year, and it never has happened.
    I am currently seeing the ability to FINALLY get panels for less than 5$ a watt, but I don't foresee prices dropping dramatically any time soon. Especially given the current economic situation we are in right now...

    -Rick-
  • Windsun
    Windsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
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    Re: Purchase solar now or wait until later in the year

    We have seen about a 5 to 15% decrease in the prices of some larger panels, but it is not across the board. Some, like the Sanyo, have hardly dropped at all - and they were pretty high to begin with. Some of the non UL or otherwise listed Chinese panels have dropped more, but most of those will not meet CEC,NEC, or any other specs for anything but low voltage stand alone installs.

    Not sure how long any price drops will last, but our wild guess is 6-12 months. But with the economy and government bailout plans changing day by day, nobody really knows.

    At some point demand and production stock will equalize and prices will start creeping up again, but it is anyones' guess when that will be. I don't see them dropping much more than they are now - right now some manufacturers are in an overstock situation, but most have also cut back on production so I think prices will not fall much - if any - more.