How much does it cost to install solar panels?

To follow up on Monday’s post about the solar-ready condo development at 3045 N Clybourn Ave, I called Chris Campbell, Executive Director of GreenWerks, a Chicago-based green contractor, to get some more information about the cost of installing solar panels on private residences.

GreenWerks has a price calculator on its solar panels Web site that estimates the cost of installing solar panels on a home based on current energy use. The solar panels themselves represent about 60 percent of the total cost, Campbell says, and installation is about 30 percent.

I played with the calculator a little bit, and from what I can tell, Phil Soto’s estimate of $30,000 seems like a plausible up-front cost for installing solar panels on a mid-size condominium — before filing for rebates, that is.

As reader Bob noted, incentives at the federal and state level can take a big bite out of the hefty price tags that come with solar energy. Campbell says that buyers are eligible for for 30-percent federal tax credits on the purchase of solar panels, and until just a few weeks ago, Illinois also offered a 30-percent rebate. However, Campbell says the state rebate program has been temporarily suspended, and the money allocated for solar rebates was recently emptied into the general fund. (Keep that in mind when using the calculator on the GreenWerks site.)

Campbell expects prices to come down in the near future, though. A combination of factors including increased production, greater efficiency and better technology will make solar energy more affordable in coming years, he explains. “I think that tipping point is definitely going to be within the next one to three years.”

Some of the current technologies for photovoltaic (electric) solar panels can only be used from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Campell says, and many won’t generate much energy when there are cloudy skies. However, Campbell says solar thermal (heat and water) systems “have no trouble generating 140 degrees even on these cold winter days.”

Related posts:
Solar ready at 3045 North Clybourn (Jan. 26)

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