Designing and Installing Grid-Tie Solar PV

BuilditSolar PV System

BuilditSolar PV System

If you’ve read my post on Earth4Energy you know that there are several people out there selling plans to build your own solar panels.  While technically these aren’t scams - because I’m sure if you follow their directions you will be able to build a solar panel - I still think the plans are very misleading.  Mostly because they don’t highlight the fact that you will still need an inverter, and you wont qualify for tax credits if you build your own panels!

But more importantly, I’m against people paying for plans to build solar projects, when there are many FREE solar resources out there.  One of the best ones I’ve seen is the advice from Gary and others at the great solar website  Gary recently completed installing his own Solar PV system and his meticulous documenting and attention to detail offer great insight into what individuals can expect when installing their own solar system.  Even if you work with a solar installer (which I would advise unless you are fairly experienced working with electricity and DIY projects) Gary’s advice will still be applicable.

From Gary’s blog post on his Solar PV project he says:

But, the economics are also interesting.  Basically, the system cost was right near $10K or $4.65 a watt -- after rebates this gets down to $6.5K and $3 per watt.  Better than what I was expecting.  The $ saving per year if you pay 10cents a KWH would be $300, or about a 5% return on the $6,500 -- tax free and energy price inflation protected.
Not so bad, but when you compare our PV to well thought out conservation/efficiency projects, or to DIY solar heating projects its comes out a very very distant 2nd

And he is absolutely right about comparing PV to well thought-out conservation/efficiency projects!  While Solar is a clean, renewable power generating source, you should only undertake it once you have done all the low-hanging energy conservation projects in and around your house.  It is more cost-effective and better for the environment to do “Nega-watt” projects (i.e. not use energy in the first place à conserve) than it is to undertake clean energy projects.

But once you do capture all the low-hanging fruite, and you are ready to undertake a solar project, Gary at Builditsolar and the other contributors to that site (like Guy Marsden) are excellent resources that provide their knowledge and experience for FREE!

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a great source of information and valuable feedback.... right on!!
BuildItSolar is a great site! I built a similar ground mount array(s) but I used 4" aluminum angle which can be purchased at most iron supply/scrap yards. Hard to cut and drill but it sure looks nice. I visited SEI in Colorado and they have a ground mount where the concrete column just extends about 2 feet out of the ground and they finished the back framing using adjustable legs and powerstrut. We have done several pole mounts and if you can afford it they are a whole lot easier to install. Do the planning and research and work with your local building/electrical/utility inspectors before you spend a dime. A great DIY project that can save you thousands of dollars.
I agree, people should never pay for solar plans when there are such good free plans out there. Thanks for the great link. I hadn't see his plans before. It's so cool that the technology exists to build your own solar projects.
Great feedback Warren!

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