Cost of Solar Panels in the Past

adam1984 Solar Expert Posts: 72 ✭✭✭✭
So I have been in the solar industry about a year now, and i have heard lots of stories about the what the prices of solar used to be in say the 70's and 80's. I heard a figure of $10/watt, which at that time with inflation i am assuming today that is $15-20/watt? How could anyone afford to do solar if that was the case. I have seen many panels with the "round cell design" which are odd to see. Anyways if anyone was around for that era i would love to hear first hand accounts of the cost. Was it seriously $10/watt.


  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
    Re: Cost of Solar Panels in the Past

    Seriously, yes. Just 12 years ago I bought two little panels at $11.26 per Watt, not including tax. Admittedly stuff is always more expensive here in BC than in any civilized part of the world. :p

    One of those panels died in a storm. The other is still keeping a 100 Amp hour battery going in my gen shed which runs the 600 Watt Stattpower MSW inverter.

    The ancient 36 Volt Alpha inverter with its "sun" transformer is still in the storage shed because it's too heavy to take to the dump. I keep taking parts off it to fix other things; eventually it will be light enough to dispose of. :p
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,404 admin
    Re: Cost of Solar Panels in the Past

    Also, remember back in the "dark ages" (10+ years ago?) -- People were designing for 100 kWH per month (3.3 kWH per day) of power usage (that was a large system)...

    Today, we have a few off-grid folks here who now run Air Conditioners with their off-grid systems in the summer (yes--small AC systems has gotten much more efficient and off-grid friendly too):

    Sanyo mini split AC (inverter/variable speed)

    Also, back then, solar trackers made good economic sense--It was cheaper to buy/build/install a smaller array on a one or two axis solar tracker vs a larger fixed array with more panels ($$$/Watt calculation).

    Today--Most of the time it makes better economic sense to install a larger fixed array and skip the tracker.

    However, there are other reasons trackers can be a good idea (more northern latititudes, longer charge time on battery, better and more reliable trackers). But they still are not cheap to buy/install.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Cost of Solar Panels in the Past

    i have one that was about $30 a watt from around 1980.
  • adam1984
    adam1984 Solar Expert Posts: 72 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Cost of Solar Panels in the Past

    Wow 30$/watt? I cant seem to wrap my head around a 500W off grid system costing $5,000, which is at $10/watt. So i assume that it was more for hobby's than as a viable form of energy? You would think the payback time would be at least ten years at that cost.
  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
    Re: Cost of Solar Panels in the Past

    For the most part, solar is not a very viable form of energy even today. Off-grid systems produce at a cost of about $1 per kW hour over the life of the equipment. Grid-tie is around half that. Compared to most utility power costs, it's terrible.

    But if you're really off the grid and the only other choice is running a generator any time you want electric then it becomes more financially viable. Especially if you need/want power 24/7.

    Likewise grid-tie can be worth it if you're somewhere that pays reasonable for surplus power produced and/or there are sufficient rebates/credits to offset the capital expense.

    We'll skip the political argument about how we're none of us paying the "true" cost of utility power on our bills. ;)