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Author Topic: Can you folks post your Solar Panel installs and recommendations.  (Read 4401 times)
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« on: August 31, 2009, 08:58:03 AM »

I have seen a few postings that some have installed a few solar panels on your bus.   In the larger picture the dollar spent might not be a wise investment.    But if you want to keep all your batteries topped off and your fridge maintained as a luxury>> what are your real world experiences?  There are alot of new technologies out there right now.   210 watt panels and greater.   More wattage for less footprint.

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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2009, 09:09:44 AM »

I also have interest in this
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« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2009, 09:26:33 AM »

I have 4 140w panels and 4 AGM 8d batterys.We make 2 pots of coffee a day and have a  household type refer. When boondocking we run the genset about 1 or 2 hours a day. Hope that helps.

Terry
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Terry
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« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2009, 09:32:33 AM »

     Depends on what your total usage amounts to. We are total electric, No Gas what so ever. 8- 110 watt adjustable panels mounted on the roof 4 8d lifeline agms 2- 2000 watt inverters only about 1/2 enough power need another 400 watts at least need to run a small generator 3 to 4 hours a day (in the evening) to top off charge. When we shower we start the main generator as the water heaters are electric also, works for me. Merlin  
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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2009, 04:22:29 AM »

Bump!

I want to know more too! Wink There has to be many more of us who have done this, so come on guys and gals, show us your stuff!

Of course I would have to remove all the roof warts to make it work, but this is an interesting subject.

Paul
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« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2009, 08:03:23 AM »

Me as well.  I'm rather reluctant to goto some place and buy they "RV" package.  LoL.  I am considering 4x200+watt panels with appropriate charger.  Figure it'd give a pretty good sip of power to four T105 batteries.
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« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2009, 08:10:07 AM »

I'm being told their are several kinds of voltaic cells to choose from, some older and less efficient some new styles that are highly efficient, even some built into a flexible backing that curves onto the bus roof, logically that would seem to make the most sence to me cause the position of the sun changes thruout the day and I'm thinking that a curved panel would be in contact with more direct rays for longer periods, but I know nothing about these things and am trying to figure out the same problems, I see where Northern tool seems to have a lot of them and at what seem to be reasonable prices but I'm being told to wait at least 2 years cause of new technology that supposedly is coming out, ahhhhhhh who knows lol.
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« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2009, 08:42:08 AM »

Pics of the top of my bus.<center>
<a href="http://s635.photobucket.com/albums/uu75/1984redbus/?action=view&current=IMG_0263.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i635.photobucket.com/albums/uu75/1984redbus/IMG_0263.jpg" border="0" alt="Front to rear">[/url]


</center>
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Terry
"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, Believe in them, and try to follow them." ~Louisa May Alcott~
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« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2009, 08:44:45 AM »

That did not work I'll try later.
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Terry
"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, Believe in them, and try to follow them." ~Louisa May Alcott~
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« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2009, 08:45:39 AM »

Aye, I heard there are more efficient and flexible panels on the horizon.  However, I think I'll try the water now, and let those more adventurous do the Beta Testing on the new technology.  I'll try and get in on it around new-panel v.1.2 or so.  

I'm going for ~18v panels, not sure brand yet, was looking at www.sunelec.com and a couple other places.  I've noticed that there are no shortage of shops out there touting good prices, but charging twice that of other shops.  

However I'm just SHOOTING IN THE DARK.   If any solar wonk out there wants to chime in and help us......

=)

Matt
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2009, 09:21:42 AM »

Even though the thumbnail doesn't show up on Redbus's when I clicked on it his pictures show up in another window.

Very nice looking bus.

Mike
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2009, 09:23:57 AM »

Yep, terry has a great bus, and it is red, very red lol.
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2009, 09:26:46 AM »

There was a member on here with (I'm 90% sure) a Van Hool conversion which had what appeared to be a very effective and well thought-out solar panel install. He had spent quite a lot of money on it, but clearly knew what he was talking about and it looked to be a good case study for those (including me) who intend to do the same thing eventually.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember the guy's name, and I haven't seen him post for quite a while. Any of the older members recognise the person I am talking about?

Jeremy
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« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2009, 09:56:12 AM »

Someone who could help writing something like "RV Solar energy pack for Busnut dummies"? (like me)
« Last Edit: September 01, 2009, 09:58:28 AM by busdriver58 » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2009, 02:17:23 PM »

Hello Bus friends, 
    Electricity is directly connected to lifestyle.  Some people do without things and wish they had more. Other people didnít want those things in the first place.  If you live in places where there is no electricity then the question is not ďwhat about my investment?Ē but is  ďhow much is it going to cost me?Ē.  If you just want to go camping for the weekend you need very little. If you want to live instead of camp then you need a lot more.
What you should do I donít know. only you know your power needs. So Iíll tell you what I did.

My goal is to live comfortably wherever I go and have a refer/freezer, bake my own bread, have all my electrical tools, pressure washer, compressor, computers, tv, washer/dryer, satellite internet, Ham radio gear, and on and on. And for this to cost me as close to nothing as is possible.  Last winter we lived for four months in a very beautiful place but with no services. It cost us two $278 a month to live like kings. The bus now runs on WVO. So Iím getting close.
   
This is what I designed and built and bought for $12,000
1580 watts solar,   10 158 watt panels  with roof racks
Outback combiner with circuit breakers
1580 amps batteries,  8 L-16H 395 amp 6 volt batteries
2 Mx 60 mppt 70 amp charge controllers
3000 watt Prosine sinewave inverter/ 120 amp charger
Trimetric 2020 battery monitor.
400 watt wind turbine
2000 watt inverter generator for backup battery charger (which Iíve never used)
and cables and wires and breakers and fuses and.

I have been working on the bus for 6 years and have only used the power from the bus for tools. When I pull up to our cabin in Oregon We connect to the house to provide power to the house no the other way around.  Iíve long since forgotten about the money. Now I have free electricity. In the sun, My batteries are fully charged at 12:00 or 1:00. Then I use the things that draw heavy juice. The batteries are still at 100% when the sun goes down.

I heard a guy on tv not to long ago say ď I cannot recommend to you decadence as a way of life but itís always worked for me.
Good Luck
Jerry
Remember we only have now, letís make the most of it.
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« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2009, 06:36:14 PM »

Niiice JERRY isn't it great what money can buy . I like you systembut can't afford it as living on the government SSI. I have what I could scounge up cheap 6 80 wat panel and a blue sky controller. They will keep the fridge and satellite internet going and maybe some TV too. Jerry
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« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2009, 07:28:52 PM »

Hello ,thanks for the original post question.A BIG way to go to Jerry Campbell nice answer and a GREAT set up on his coach.            THANK YOU VERY MUCH .I am making my own "baby steps" GFC
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« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2009, 08:59:37 PM »

I have seen a few postings that some have installed a few solar panels on your bus.   In the larger picture the dollar spent might not be a wise investment.


That is an astute observation.  Or maybe an understatement.  It's hard to make definitive statements about the cost-effectiveness of solar, because it depends on so many factors that vary greatly from installation to installation, such as the amount of incident sunlight, installation angle of the panels, ability (or lack thereof) to track the sun, plus the variability in the lifetime of the panels, which will be impacted by environmental considerations (snow, heat, lack of cool airflow underneath, sleet, etc.) as well as mechanical stresses from the installation, such as on a moving bus.

That being said, on average for motor coach installations, solar is not a cost-effective way to make electricity.  So you really have to want to do it for other reasons, such as being able to leave the coach parked someplace while you are away for a few days, weeks, or months without having to worry about the batteries, or you want to be able to park in some national park campgrounds where generators are prohibited or severely restricted, or you just prefer to keep your generator operation to a minimum for the peace and quiet.

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But if you want to keep all your batteries topped off and your fridge maintained as a luxury>> what are your real world experiences?


We have "330 watts" of panels, along with an MPPT charge controller to maximize the available output.  For us, if we are parked where the panels get good light for most of the day, that's enough to run the fridge (high-efficiency Novakool 24-volt model, 7.5 cubic feet) pretty much indefinitely, and the air compressor as well if we are not actually on board using air, plus perhaps a Fantastic or two on thermostats.  So we think nothing of taking off for a week or two with a fridge full of food, but we do turn off all unnecessary and parasitic loads, and we leave the genny on auto-start as a precaution (it has not had to run).

Real life, of course, is different, and using things like the coffee maker, microwave, computers, and occasionally the TV, not to mention using air by flushing the toilet and opening and closing the plug door means we need to run the genny every few days for a few hours to charge back up;  the solar extends that time by a little bit, but the natural variability of daily life makes the amount of extra time we get very difficult to calculate.  (We average one hour of genset run time per day when boondocking in temperate weather, starting on day three -- the first two days are provided courtesy of the 50DN alternator.)

Die-hard desert rats have arranged their rigs and their lives to use a bare minimum of electricity, and those folks can get by on solar alone indefinitely, but it is a spartan lifestyle and requires alternative technologies (chiefly propane) for such things as refrigeration.

I put the wattage in quotes, because that is the "nominal" wattage of the panels under ideal conditions.  Ideal conditions are never encountered most places, and especially on a bus.  A 110-watt panel might generate 90% of that figure on a crystal clear day in the Arizona desert while aimed directly at the sun at high noon.  When you allow for other latitudes, lower incident angles (more atmosphere to traverse) throughout most of the day, inability to keep the panels directly aimed at the sun, etc., the number drops to 60% or less of that figure.  If there are times when it is not sunny out, even less.  If there is a shadow of any kind on even a small fraction of a panel, that panel's output will drop almost to zero.  The list goes on and on.  So in real world conditions, you can expect to see perhaps 20%-40% of ideal "rated" output across the daylight hours.

What I use for the purpose of "napkin" calculations is to use 50% of rated output times 8 hours in the summer, 6 in winter, to get an approximation of available output (in sunlight).  So my "330 watts" of panels might provide a single kilowatt-hour of electricity on a good day.  That's about 40 amp-hours on my 24-volt plant.  For comparison, we use 125-175 amp-hours per day on average, if we are in temperate weather where we need neither air conditioning nor heat.

That's all the panels that would fit on our roof, BTW, given that we have three roof airs, three Fantastics, a MotoSat dish, a roof hatch, and a 7'x7' deck up there.  If you have a clear roof, with today's technology you could squeeze perhaps 3.5 kW (nominal) of panels onto a 40' coach, ten times what we have.  But bear in mind, at 50% average performance, that's still less than a single household 15-amp circuit can produce.  Still, we can (and have) run our whole coach indefinitely on a single house circuit, so it can be done.  Mind you, that much solar will cost north of 20 grand for the panels alone, before figuring mounting hardware, cables, charge controllers, and other miscellaneous bits -- figure a quarter c-note for a complete installation.  (At today's prices, BTW, that would buy you 10,000 gallons of diesel, which would run the average 6.5kW genset for about 20,000 hours -- 833 days straight, or two years, three months, and 12 days.)

Hope that gives you some useful perspective.

-Sean
http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com
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« Reply #18 on: September 01, 2009, 09:28:04 PM »

We have 4 130 W panels with 4 8d agm batteries and a blue sky controller. We boondock all winter in AZ and this set up has cut our gen. use to about 1hr  a day we love it. Discount Solar in Quartzsite AZ. designed and installed our system. They were very good to work with, reasonably priced and very professional with their install. I would recommend them to any one that is looking for solar even if you just have a question give them a call they will help you out.
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« Reply #19 on: September 01, 2009, 09:57:30 PM »

Thanks to all that have posted!!    Can you guys post the brand of your solar panels..   I was looking at the Sharp units, but someone told me that they aren't "designed" for RV use.  Hence no warranty.   A friend pointed me to www.kyocerasolar.com   

I guess that most of us fall into two camps> ones the really boondock, and others that want to keep the diesel noisemaker at a minimum when on the road.    Sean I'm thrilled to hear the 50DN gives you a good head start...    (sidenote to Sean>How's the new turbo doing")     I'm thinking about installing 8 panels to keep the fridge running and a few electronics.    Again, when you pencil in the numbers running the genset seems to be the smart thing.  Having solar assistance is a luxury!   To bad we couldn't get a tax credit for our buses.

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« Reply #20 on: September 01, 2009, 10:20:06 PM »

Thanks to all that have posted!!    Can you guys post the brand of your solar panels..   I was looking at the Sharp units, but someone told me that they aren't "designed" for RV use.  Hence no warranty.   A friend pointed me to www.kyocerasolar.com


We have the 24-volt (nominal) Shell Solar (formerly Siemens) panels.  The 110-watt units we have are discontinued.

None of the "good" panels is designed for RV use, including the Kyocera.  I think you will find that RV-specific panels have lower energy density and higher per-watt cost than standard panels.  If a panel quits, you take it back to the distributor -- I suspect they will replace it under warranty without asking too may questions about where it was installed unless it is obviously damaged from physical abuse.

Quote
I guess that most of us fall into two camps> ones the really boondock, and others that want to keep the diesel noisemaker at a minimum when on the road.    Sean I'm thrilled to hear the 50DN gives you a good head start...    (sidenote to Sean>How's the new turbo doing")


We never run the genny on the road -- the 50DN provides all the power we need.  Remember, this is a 7 kW alternator -- half a kW of solar is hardly going to make much of a difference on the road.

The turbo seems to be humming along, thanks.  Of course, it was before, too, right up until it self-destructed...

Quote
...  To bad we couldn't get a tax credit for our buses.


Well, ahem... we did take the tax credit.  We read the fine print, as did our accountant, and nothing in there excluded a moving house, so long as it was our house, which it is. YMMV, as they say.

-Sean
http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com
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« Reply #21 on: September 02, 2009, 05:13:42 AM »

I just want Sean's bus............

 Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin


TOM
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« Reply #22 on: September 02, 2009, 08:32:04 AM »

http://sunelec.com/

$1.98 a watt for 130 watt panels. Cheeeeeeeeep
Jerry
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« Reply #23 on: September 02, 2009, 09:49:41 AM »

I have found Mark Nemeth's website very helpful in sorting out low voltage issues.

http://bart.ccis.com/home/mnemeth/tech.htm
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« Reply #24 on: September 02, 2009, 10:11:47 AM »

I just want Sean's bus............


Make me an offer...  Grin

http://sunelec.com/

$1.98 a watt for 130 watt panels. Cheeeeeeeeep


Those are extremely cheap.  Many of the other panels on their page are also far below market, which is right now running from $3-$5 per watt for first-quality panels over 100 watts (smaller panels run more per watt).  My figures in a previous post here were based on last year's market, which was even higher at close to $6 per watt, where they will be once again, no doubt, when the economy recovers.

So cheap, in fact, that I am suspicious.  Now it may in fact be the case that they are arbitraging panels based on market dynamics, as they claim at the bottom of the page, or it may be that they are picking up panels at manufacturer's fire sales, typically because the panels are discontinued, surplus, or second-quality.

There's nothing wrong with saving money this way, of course, as long as you recognize the limitations.  If you have discontinued panels, as I do, then you need to know that if one panel breaks, finding a direct drop-in replacement may well be impossible, possibly compromising your investment in mounting hardware and labor.  Surplus panels typically have a more limited warranty.  And factory seconds may have sub-standard performance.

As always, YMMV.

Of course, there is a distinct possibility that this outfit simply had a giant warehouse full of panels when the market tanked, and now they are slashing prices below cost to pay the rent or liquidate their inventory before they have to pay another year's tax on it.

-Sean
http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com
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« Reply #25 on: September 02, 2009, 11:47:14 AM »

I've always wondered and never seen it addressed.  What happens if you're unfortunate enough to get caught in a hail storm?  Will it damage these panels on top of the coach?

David
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« Reply #26 on: September 02, 2009, 03:57:45 PM »

Hi David,
    I have never heard of hail damaged solar panels. But, I have seen hail so big it destroyed everything outside in the neighborhood so I'm thinking it is a possibility. Your supposed to be able to walk on the Kyocera panels I have But I wouldn't dare.
Jerry
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« Reply #27 on: September 02, 2009, 08:08:16 PM »

I as well am interested in this subject. I have 2 solar panels on my newly acquired bus. I have no clue how they work or how big they are or even if they work. Can someone tell me how these things work and what is required to make them work? Also how do i check to see if mine are working?

Thanks-Josh
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« Reply #28 on: September 03, 2009, 04:29:03 AM »

Can someone tell me how these things work and what is required to make them work?

Ummmm....  sunshine?


Seriously, that's what is required to make them work. Sunshine!

Ok, so that's a smart assed answer, but basically correct. When sun shines on your panels, they produce electricity. Your panels should be connected to a charge controller, which is in turn connected to your batteries. Locate those pieces and you should be able to figure out if they are working. You might have to look up some instructions on your particular charge controller.

Follow the wires....

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« Reply #29 on: September 03, 2009, 05:38:43 AM »

I've done some initial looking into adding some solar panels to my house and to my bus.  I ran across this panel:

http://us.sunpowercorp.com/downloads/product_pdfs/business/SunPower_315ewh_com_en.pdf

However, I've not been able to find it available for sale in a few simple google searches.  Outback Power does not carry it either and said they don't see any reason to carry it.  SunPower does make some pretty impressive claims on the power capacity of this panel.  From a space efficiency standpoint this panel would be worth a small premium.


Thoughts anyone?
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« Reply #30 on: September 03, 2009, 09:44:32 AM »

I was in a lengthy meeting concerning alternative energies including solar. 

The usable gist: look for panels with at least 25% efficiency; if you know of a solar installation going up, ask about extra panels.

Both leaders from different areas said there are a lot of "extra" panels because the architects and contractors don't know the shrinkage rate during construction.  This leads to leftovers which lead to storage costs which lead to bargains for the persistent.

There is a chance that both are blowhards but they were quite certain that there is a large number of panels available.
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« Reply #31 on: September 04, 2009, 11:30:21 AM »

Maybe there is an over supply.

http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2009/09/04/half-of-solar-firms-to-fail-analyst-says/
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« Reply #32 on: September 04, 2009, 01:19:58 PM »



Thanks for that link -- very informative.

It looks like I bought my panels more or less at the top of the market; I paid about $4 a watt at retail, and that was a good price at the time.  Right now, it looks like waiting a bit is a good strategy.

This makes some of my numbers above a bit harsh.  However, even at $1 a watt, solar is an expensive way to make power if you've already underwritten the capital cost of a generator.

-Sean
http://OurOdyssey.Blogspot.com
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