October 14th, 2020 by Jake Richardson
At a restaurant, I overheard some other customers talking about how solar power is too expensive. As someone who follows solar power enough to know it actually is very affordable now and is well within the reach of many, many homeowners, I wanted to protest this very outdated notion. However, doing so would have been rude, probably obnoxious and just awkward.
They were talking about rooftop solar power and quite mistakenly. There’s an even cheaper form of solar available today — ground-mounted solar power.
For example, GoGreenSolar has a 5 kW solar power kit for only $7,228. (To not show favoritism to GoGreenSolar, Solar Electric Supply has a 5.7 kW ground-mounted system for $9,565.) The 13 400-watt solar panels in the GoGreenSolar kit don’t go on a roof, they are installed in an Ironridge racking and mounting system anchored to the ground. GoGreenSolar wrote there is another $1,500 in costs for the following: “Concrete, schedule 40 pipe, wire, conduit, fittings, breakers, AC/DC Disconnects (if required), junction boxes and a sub panel (if required).“
Installing the whole system will cost another $5,000 if you hire someone to do it. If you could do it all yourself, your ground-mounted solar power system would be just $8,700. Assuming that most homeowners don’t have the knowledge, skills or inclination to do the installation and would prefer to pay a contractor to complete this work, the price increases to $13,700. This figure is before incentives like the federal tax credit and local ones, if they are available. Some states, counties and cities/towns offer rebates, for example.
Further, a UC-Berkely study found that installing a home solar power system can add about $15,000 in value to a home’s worth. The study was focused on rooftop solar though, not the ground-mounted kind. Assuming ground-mounted solar power also increases a home’s value, a 5 kW system costing $13,700 might potentially wind up adding greater value than it costs. This would be particularly so if the homeowner installed the whole system so its cost was just $8,700. In this case, the homeowner could increase value by about $6,300 more than the cost of the system. In this scenario, there could be further savings from potential incentives. In fact, it might be possible to effectively get the ground-mounted solar power system for almost nothing when you factor in the increase in home value and savings from incentives.
Ground-mounted solar power systems require space though. GoGreenSolar says a 5 kW system needs about 400 square feet. So, a plot of yard space about 20 x 20 or perhaps 25 x 16 would be sufficient to use for a 5 kW system. Ground-mounted solar is for people who have backyards large enough to accommodate the panels and racking system. (If most people would not prefer to install them in front yards.)
Ground-mounted solar power systems are also for people who have the space but don’t like solar panels on rooftops or their roofs are too shaded for them.
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