Sometimes in life you’ve got to start from scratch and work your way up. Indeed that is the model for the American Dream. So let’s apply that thinking to solar power. Can it work to build your solar system one panel at a time? How much power would that single panel provide?
I recently visited an off-the-grid home in California’s high desert region. This small, yurt-sized abode functioned off of a single solar panel, ground-mounted on the south side of the home. Granted these homeowners live rather simply in a small home but, with the help of a small battery bank, are able to live comfortably with just one solar panel. Yes they did have a stereo, small television, and a few other electric gadgets. They also utilized an ICS solar water heater.
Photo Credit: emdot
The point of that example being that, given the right mentality and lifestyle, a single solar panel can go a long way. Let’s examine, however, in more general terms what a single solar panel can do.
The amount of electricity that the panel will produce (all environmental and geographical concerns aside) will depend on the panel itself. Solar panels will have peak power output ratings stamped on them. Some produce 50 watts, others 200 watts, some even 500 watts. That can be enough to power a good many devices, but generally only during those peak hours and certainly not at night without the use of batteries.
The electric conclusion here is that a single panel, with battery bank, can even power a simple off-grid dwelling, but will make a minimal impact when wired into the average home.
The cost of the solar panel will vary based on the amount of electricity it can create, the brand, and other factors such as voltage and amp capacity. Here are some panel prices, via Wholesale Solar:
- Sharp 80W: $450/Sharp-175W: $715
- REC Solar 210W: $958
- Mitsubishi 120W: $623/185W:$899
- Kyocera 50W: $280
These are just a few examples. Shopping around will likely require several phone calls to different manufacturers before the best deal is found and you can be sure to have the right panel for you and your location.
Photo Credit: kugelfish
Just about anyone who starts with the single panel scenario will want to upgrade with more panels later. This can almost always be done, but a few steps should be taken to make the transition easier. For home applications, say for a grid-connected home, considerations should be made with the inverter such as its watt capacity. It may be wiser to buy an inverter from the get-go that will be able to handle more than a few solar panels.
Other considerations can easily be resolved by talking to your solar installer. It will most likely be more financially advantageous to install an entire system at once; for reasons of bulk discounts, paying labor only once, and getting the most out of rebates and tax incentives. If you’re reading this, however, installing a full solar system may not be an option currently (although be sure to check out financing options). In that case a single panel scenario may be your most immediate option, just be sure to discuss with a solar professional how that single panel and later upgrades will work best for you.