What You Need to Know About Solar Panels

The turn of the 21st century has seen an explosion of new technology, and renewable energies have been one of the industries that have taken the largest steps in the least amount of time. Today, you can get clean, green energy from solar panels, wind electric systems, geothermal systems and microhydropower systems or a combination of them.

Solar power technology has grown exponentially over the years, becoming significantly more accessible to businesses, homeowners and farmers all over the country. If you are looking to invest in solar panels and want to know more about them, continue reading.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels essentially harness solar power and turn it into electricity through solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. In fact, solar panels are made entirely of these cells, which basically allow particles of light (photons) to get electrons free from atoms, which in turn, generates a flow of electricity. 

Each cell has a junction in the middle, surrounded by silicon, which is a semi-conducting material. To create an electric field, the silicon on top of the junction is "doped" with phosphorous, which adds more electrons (negative charge) and the lower layer of silicon is dosed with boron, which reduces the number of electrons, generating a positive charge.

These separated opposite charges create an electric field, which helps separate electrons from the particle of light, and these electrons are later collected, turned into usable power and transferred through wires to power any device.

Cutting-Edge Technology at Lower Prices

Over the past 30 years, the price of installing solar panels has dropped by 60%. Installing a residential solar panel system with an average of 6-kilowatt per hour would cost more than $50,000 in the past. Today, the same installation can cost anywhere between $16,200 and $21,400, depending on the location and the company installing it.

This change in price can be greatly attributed to cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar cells. CdTe is the material photo-voltaic cells are made from. Recent research into CdTe has led to innovative breakthroughs that have increased the effectiveness of these solar cells and their longevity. CdTe essentially helps absorb more light, which in turn increases the production of electricity.

Getting Solar Power

Having cheaper and effective solar technology has led to more and more companies capitalizing on solar power. Three of the more popular companies today include:
  • Dividend Solar
  • Green Solar Technologies
  • Hannah Solar
Today, a residential solar power system of 5-6kW costs approximately $14,119 with a tax credit ($19,080 without credit). This including installation, permits and inspections by the city, which are all handled by the installation company.

According to Solar Reviews, a solar power system of this capacity could mean an average amount of savings in your utilities somewhere between $47,000 and $160,000 for the remainder of your life. The exact amount will depend on the state you live in and the average cost per watt.

If you want to know how much the solar panel will cost for your specific case and how much money you can save in utility bills over the years, you can get an estimate here.

In terms of how many solar panels you would need to power your home, this will depend on the size of your home, how efficient the panels are, the wattage each panel has and  and how sunny your region is. A house in California, where it's mostly sunny will probably require fewer panels than a house in the Northwest.

Note: The federal solar tax (formally known as the investment tax credit, or ITC) allows you to deduct 26% on the cost of your solar panel installation.