lukati
Posts: 288
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:23 pm
Delivery Date: 07 Dec 2011

Build your own ground-mounted solar array

Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:11 pm

As the price of individual components of PV systems, particularly panels, continues to drop, the fractional cost of the installation becomes bigger and bigger. Currently installation accounts for about 50% of total cost for a medium sized system. Building the system yourself is thus very cost-effective, particularly if you have limited space or budget and need to build small.

I recently finished installing a ~2kW version of the system described by Doug Kalmer on BuildItSolar.
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/PV ... nphase.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I can highly recommend this install: it looks great, is very solid, and cost and performance are exactly as advertised. Taking into account both federal and state incentives, my 2kW system will have cost me less than $1.40/W. This system is capable of generating about 10,000 miles worth of electrical energy per year if located in full sun. But the real beauty of this install is that it makes sense even if your backyard is small and has suboptimal sun. I live in a Chicago suburb on a typical quarter acre lot with many beautiful trees and close neighbors. My system has substantial shading issues, particularly in the morning. I estimate that the annual yield will be reduced to about half due to shading. But since it only cost half (at most) compared to a commercially installed system, the cost/yield relationship still makes sense.

madbrain
Posts: 281
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:53 pm
Delivery Date: 20 Oct 2012
Leaf Number: 023874
Location: San Jose, CA

Re: Build your own ground-mounted solar array

Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:28 pm

lukati wrote:Building the system yourself is thus very cost-effective, particularly if you have limited space or budget and need to build small.
Interesting, but I don't get the limited space part.
You need space on your lot to do it. I can have 80 panels on my roof but there is no ground location to put any panels except the front lawn ... 4700 sq ft house on 9200 sq ft lot.
Most lots around here are under 6000 sq ft.

lukati
Posts: 288
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:23 pm
Delivery Date: 07 Dec 2011

Re: Build your own ground-mounted solar array

Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:14 pm

madbrain wrote:
lukati wrote:Building the system yourself is thus very cost-effective, particularly if you have limited space or budget and need to build small.
Interesting, but I don't get the limited space part.

The smaller the system, the more expensive it is per installed watt. That is true whether or not you build the system yourself. However, the smaller the system, the more cost-effective ($/W) it is to build it yourself compared to having it installed by a professional.

These rules also apply to roof-based systems. Having a small (~2kW) system professionally installed (roof or ground-mounted) is just very expensive. So if you are space or budget limited, building the system yourself makes it affordable on a per W basis.

The BuildItSolar site has several reports of DIY roof systems as well. I just have no personal experience with those. Building on the ground is a lot easier and safer and there is no risk of a leaking roof if something goes wrong. Having said that, I am seriously considering building a roof system in the near future. And I would love to have your roof!

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