Finally the cost of material have hit an all time low. For installers and consumers photovoltaic equipment has dropped to the lowest prices possible. Good news? The common answer to these questions is usually “it depends”. Cost of living has not changed. Electric prices have not decreased. Labor cost has not decreased.
Maybe the industry has paid for the R&D for solar energy, however an unseen force is looming in the background that may be more a tempest rather than a spring zephyr. The US market has been swamped with products from the Far East. This has created an atmosphere of product security. However several questions must be answered as an installer and consumer concerning these upstart manufactures in China and abroad.
1. Will these manufactures be around for the warranties they sport as a POD? (point of distinction)
2. Does Purchasing modules from these manufactures add value to the grid and US economy?
3. Is the low cost a value in exchange for low efficiency rates
Many China made modules sport a 25-year transferable warranty almost unmatched by most other manufactures. However, as we have noted over the 20 years, these manufactures supply an inferior product and fold up after 10 years. Consumers must be careful when purchasing product from China. This is not a shirt or handbag purchase.
US economy is in dire need of home town support. The difference in purchase cost is less than $2000 on most residential systems. Carefully choosing US made modules support our economy and keeps Americans working. When unemployment rates are at an all time high (17%) consumers must consider purchases carefully.
Tragically the cost analysis trade for purchase price and 20-year performance is dramatic. Solar energy is a large investment. This is not a penny stock option. Rather average installation cost is $23000. Break down the numbers and the cost of installation is $1150 per year invested. Average monthly utility bill is $300 nationwide. That equates to $3600 yearly! Installing a china made product will yield and average of 14% efficiency compared to US made products of 17%. 3% loss of efficiency over 20 years is exponential! That means to produce the same amount of energy in 20 years the system will have to be oversized 30%. The cost of the modules is small compared to the efficiency. A 30% increase in system size will cost $6700. Saving $2000 in panel cost may not be the most fiscally responsible investment. Consider carefully when purchasing components. Made in the USA is not a label rather a statement the includes quality, commitment and pride. These can not be made cheap or inexpensive.