Solar power production and payback calculator

BP Solar Clean Power Estimator Example

BP Solar Clean Power Estimator Example

I've been searching for a good solar power payback calculator based on where a person lives for awhile now.  While the U.S. does have a Federal incentive of a 30% tax credit for those who install solar, many states also offer incentives.  Additionally, some utilities also offer incentives.  This means that someone living in a state with very poor incentives, like Idaho, can have a much, much different return on investment than someone living in California or New Jersey (two of the top performing "return on solar investment" states).

The problem is that it is relatively hard to find out solar power payback information for three reasons that all depend on where you live:

  • The amount of energy your panels produce (thus the amount of money they save on your utility bill) depends on your geography and how much solar insolation you receive
  • The amount you pay in electricity (thus the amount of money your panels save you when they offset your usage) depends on your utility company, which varies by location
  • The amount of incentives available to you by your state and/or utility varies by your state and utility.

Earlier this year I wrote a blog on finding out how much energy solar panels will produce based on where you live titled, "Calculating your Annual Solar Energy Output", which mentions the PVWatts tool by NREL.  This is a great tool, but it only tells you how many kWh will be produced, not any financial payback information.

Thankfully I recently discovered the Clean Power Estimator by BP Solar that does provide financial payback and return on investment information and I am very impressed.

You have to enter in your zip code and the calculator really does all the rest.  There are 4 main things you can manipulate:

  • monthly electric bill
  • annual energy bill escalation (determined by how fast your utility raises rates)
  • solar system size
  • cost per watt DC (this is how solar installers price systems.  This usually includes panels, inverters, electrical equipment, and labor to install the panels)

You can also tell the tool how you want to pay for your panels: pay cash, home equity loan, non-tax deductible loan.

Based on the information you manipulate, the tool will run different simulations to help you figure out if solar is good for you.  This a great resource if you want to learn more about actually installing solar on your home.  Your solar installer will also help you with this information, but this will help get you a little more educated before you move on.

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Thanks a lot for your speedy reply. And thanks for the link. i will explore and see what happens. Have a good one.
Hey Bill, You have got a point but....Lets just look past all the hype about solar and lowering or eliminating your electric bill. Fact is energy costs are only going to rise in the future. I agree we don't need any more BS government envolvement with this industry. Solar SHOULD stand on its costs X amount of dollars to produce the product and install it and presto you got your own energy plant on your house. you have to pay for energy from some source why not get in from the sun. simple technology kinda like a fruit tree. it takes a seedling and a little water and in a few years the tree is yelding fruit for years and all you got to do is just water it...prity good return huh? same concept with solar.
Looking at the example, I notice things right off the bat. I have some questions: What is the life expectancy of the panals...then where do they go? Are they garbage...what is the energy to make and transport these coming from? How many wasp nests will be built under the panals? If you instead took the 11,900 and used it for some other investment, how much money would you have after 30 years? It seems the tax payer is on the hook for 2/3rds of there must be a limit to the amount of money we americans can pay for these projects....yes or yes? If it is such a good idea, why is there a need for the tax credit? I would be more comfortable with solar if it was 1/10th the price, until then, this seems to be a waste of money for both the investor and the tax payer. OR I could swallow this pill when the president increases my energy bill by 10 times with cap and trade. YES! I see what is going on here. Obama is in bed with solar and wind. I can't wait for my utility bill to be as high as my mortage payment.
I used the BP solar calculator to estimate my system performance and ROI before I installed my 3.2 kW solar array and so far it has proven to be very accurate. It has a very friendly user interface and attractive graphics - an excellent tool.
Do I Have to buy the Solar Calculator Software from BP?
ckmapawatt's picture
Wow, it looks like you might be right. This used to be a free service but now they're charging for it from these guys: Maybe we'll contact them to see how much it would be to host the service on Mapawatt. My gut is telling me that it is going to be pretty expensive, but we'll see. Our next closest post is "<a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Calculating your annual solar energy output</a>". As far as I know everything is still free!
Guy, I think I actually found this on your excellent site. Sorry I forgot to give you the credit!
That's a pretty handy tool. I didn't know there was such a thing as a solar calculator. I live in southern California, which has about as maximum exposure to good sunlight as you can ask for in the States.
Chris, Great site. We have a calculator on our website that is designed to give a comprehensive solar ROI analysis based on a number of variables, including location. Check it out when you get a chance: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

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