THE COST AND RATINGS OF SOLAR ELECTRIC PANELS


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HOW MUCH DO SOLAR MODULES COST



Photovoltaic panels (also called modules) account for about 30-35% of the total cost of an installed home solar electric system.


A typical PV module for residential applications is rated between 50 and 300 watts (peak) and measures about 5.5 feet by 3 feet. Its price is often stated in terms of dollars per watt. Most manufacturers of solar panels sell them to wholesalers or distributors, who then resell to retailers or dealers. So, it is difficult to compare the real manufacturing costs. As for the retail cost of PV panels, in 2012 its average amount in US was about $2/watt peak. You may find some thin-film panels for sale for as low as $0.84/W. However, for a homeowner who wants to take an advantage of various federal, state and utility incentives, it is difficult to get the lowest cost panels. The problem is that these incentives are normally offered for the complete systems rather than the panels. In many cases to take an advantage of the incentives you need to install an approved system and use a certified installer who carries only some specific modules.



Average cost of solar panels This graph represents average prices of residential solar panels.

RATINGS AND OVERVIEW



The chart below compares nameplate characteristics of some of the PV modules from various manufacturers. The modules usually come with 20-25 years of so-called power output warranty that guarantees 80% of the minimal rated power during this period of time. Note that the retailers often give prices in pallet quantity (in bulk). Pallet quantity varies by manufacturer and may range from 2 to 60, which makes the price comparison difficult. Consumers sometimes are asking about the price per square foot. This is not a very useful criterion since the models with low cell efficiency may cost less per square foot, but you would need to install more modules to get the desired wattage. You really want to compare dollars per watt.

MODEL MANUFAC- TURER PEAK
POWER
(watts)
Voc Isc Vmp Imp Size
mm
WATT per
square meter
WHT
lbs
Eff. TECHNOLOGY
SPR-315E- WHT-D Sunpower 315 64.6 6.14 54.7 5.76 1559 x1046 193 41 19.3% Mono-
crystalline
HIT Power 215N Sanyo 215 51.6 5.61 42.0 5.13 1580 x798 170 35.3 17.1% Hybrid Amorphous/
crystalline
YL 280 P-35b Yingli Solar 280 44.6 8.04 35.3 7.65 1970 x990 143.6 57.3 14.4% Poly-
crystalline Si
GEPVp-205-M GE Energy 205 33 8.2 27.2 7.6 1485 x981 140 39 - Poly-
crystalline Si
BP SX3190 BP Solar 190 30.7 8.6 24.4 7.96 1680 x837 135 34 - Silicon nitride multi-
crystalline
Sharp NT-175UC1 Sharp 175 44.4 5.4 35.4 4.95 1575 x826 134 35.3 - -
REC220AE REC Solar 220 36.3 8.3 28.4 7.8 1665 x991 133.3 48.5 13.3% Multi-
crystalline Si
PV-UD180MF5 Mitsubishi 180 30.4 8.03 24.2 7.45 1658 x834 130 37 13.0% Poly-
crystalline Si
ES-A-205 Evergreen Solar 205 23.1 12.2 18.7 11.23 1651 x952 104 41 13.1% Poly-
crystalline Si
FS-277 First Solar 75 90.5 1.22 69.9 1.11 1200 x600 75 26.45 - Thin film CdS/CdT
EPV-54 EPV Solar 54 60 1.49 45.4 1.19 1321 x711 57.5 32 - Thin film a-Si
Notes: In this table: Voc- open circuit voltage, Isc- short circuit current, Vmp and Imp- voltage and current at maximum power point. For explanation of these and other characteristics of PV modules see our guide to PV panels for homes.




References and additional information:
The installed cost of solar power systems in the U.S. in 2011