Assignment 2: Household Photovoltaics

We hear all too often that we are in an energy crisis.  We hear about power outages all across the nation because the grid is well over its capacity at times.  Scientists and politicians have spent countless hours of their time and millions of dollars to alleviate this issue from society but still to no avail.  What people are now discovering is that the answer to their energy needs has been right in front of them for their entire lives…or should i say, right above them.  The sun radiates enough energy to the earth day to power the entire earth dozens of times over.  The problem is harnessing this energy.  Enter the photovoltaic cell, or as most people know it, the solar panel.  Solar technology is something that has been utilized for literally thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the early 1950’s that an invention was made that would truly change the world.  Household photovoltaics can truly benefit society by producing power locally and from a renewable source. This post will talk about the installation of PV panels in your home, how economically viable they are, and how truly beneficial they are to both the energy crisis and the environment.



Implementing a PV system is quite simple to install.  In fact, in a lot of areas once you’ve purchased the PV system it is free to install so the labor costs on installation are absolutely zero! If it does cost a fee however, it is not something that will break the bank.  The main cost of a solar system usually comes from the hardware itself.  A good rule of thumb for a PV system is that it will cost around $1 per watt.  So if you have a 5 kW system in place you will have:

\[5 \text { kW} \times \frac {\$1} {\text {Watt}} \times \frac {1000 \text { Watts}}{1 \text{ kW}} = \$5,000\]

So, assuming we have free installation we have a cost of $5,000 for a 5 kW system.  What can the payback time for this be considering this is quite a hefty investment?  Using a location of State College, PA we can see that we live in a “1500” zone for solar energy.  From this we can see that:

\[1500 \times 0.78 \text{ (A Constant)} \times 5 \text { kW} = 5,850 \frac {\text { kWh}}{\text { year}}\]

At an average cost of 8 cents per kWh in Pennsylvania we see that someone implementing a 5 kW system can annually save:

\[5,850  \frac {\text { kWh}}{\text { Year}} \times .08 \frac {\text {\$}}{\text {kWh}} = $468 \text { per year} \]

So with an initial cost of $5,000 we have a return on investment (ROI) of:

\[\frac {\$5,000}{$468} \approx 10.7 \text { years} \]

This means that if you are going to live in your household for more than 10.7 years you will have an absolute ROI and any power generated after this can be looked at as “profit”.  Not only is household solar a great investment financially but it is also a morally sound investment.  Household solar also helps offset many tons of CO2 each year that would otherwise be emitted from a coal fired power plant.  In fact, the average American home produces about 4 tons of CO2 per year.  This could all be offset if a self sustaining PV system is put into place in an American household.

So let’s say that once your PV system is paid off you produce more energy then you use.  This means that you will then be paid by the power company for your excess energy.  Lets say on average you produce 15 kWh per month more than you use.  This means that:

\[15 \text{ kWh per month} \times 8 \text{ cents per kWh} \times 12 \text { months} = $14.40 \text { per year} \]

This is excess money in your pocket as opposed to it going to the power company!

Household solar is something that’s becoming more and more popular each year in the United States.  It is becoming more financially viable and socially accepted each and every year to install household PV systems.  What I am asking is not to rush out and buy a household PV system immediately because PV systems are not ideal for every locale.  What I am asking is for each individual to do the research necessary to see if a household PV system works for them.  If even a handful of people install a household PV system, the world will become a better place.


1.) Brentley, Austin. “What Is the Average Payback Period of a Solar Installation?” What Is the Average Payback Period of a Solar Installation? Direct Energy Solar, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
2.) Hahn, Dan. “How to Calculate the Amount of Kilowatt Hours (kWh) Your Solar Panel System Will Produce – Solar Power Rocks.” Solar Power Rocks. N.p., 13 Jan. 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
3.) Palmer, Brian. “Solar Energy Offers a Vast Supply of Power, but Harnessing It Is a Challenge.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 22 June 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
4.) “Putting Solar Savings into Numbers – Solar Energy.” Solar Energy Putting Solar Savings into Numbers Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
5.) “Solar Panel Brief History and Overview – Energy Matters – the Solar Experts.” Energy Matters. Energy Matters, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.


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