Getting closer

One of the goals for Firebase Blue is, of course, to take it off the power grid. Since we live on a bluff, wind power will most likely be my primary source of charging my future battery house. I’m very hip to these barrel type from PacWind. A four pack of those, one on each corner of the house, and I’d be rather happy.

However, because of technology improvements, even residents of rainy-gray Washington can also go solar.

And now, that technology is getting cheaper.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) released a new study on the installed costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the U.S., showing that the average cost of these systems declined by more than 30 percent from 1998 to 2008. Within the last year of this period, costs fell by more than 4 percent.

The number of solar PV systems in the U.S. has been growing at a rapid rate in recent years, as governments at the national, state, and local levels have offered various incentives to expand the solar market. With this growth comes a greater need to track and understand trends in the installed cost of PV.

“A goal of government incentive programs is to help drive the cost of PV systems lower. One purpose of this study is to provide reliable information about the costs of installed systems over time,” says report co-author Ryan Wiser.

According to the report, the most recent decline in costs is primarily the result of a decrease in PV module costs. “The reduction in installed costs from 2007 to 2008 marks an important departure from the trend of the preceding three years, during which costs remained flat as rapidly expanding U.S. and global PV markets put upward pressure on both module prices and non-module costs. This dynamic began to shift in 2008, as expanded manufacturing capacity in the solar industry, in combination with the global financial crisis, led to a decline in wholesale module prices,” states the report, which was written by Wiser, Galen Barbose, Carla Peterman, and Naim Darghouth of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

In contrast, cost reductions from 1998 through 2007 were largely due to a decline in non-module costs, such as the cost of labor, marketing, overhead, inverters, and the balance of systems.

The study—the second in an ongoing series that tracks the installed cost of PV—examined 52,000 grid-connected PV systems installed between 1998 and 2008 in 16 states. It found that average installed costs, in terms of real 2008 dollars, declined from $10.80 per watt (W) in 1998 to $7.50/W in 2008, equivalent to an average annual reduction of $0.30/W, or 3.6 percent per year in real dollars.

The Wife and I already have plans for the approaching 2009 income tax return. And in a couple years, generating our own electricity will be the plan for the return.

Now we just need battery technology and prices to decline over the next couple years and we’ll be sitting pretty.

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6 Responses to Getting closer

  1. Heartless Libertarian says:

    You might also want to check these out:

  2. Brian Saul says:

    Let me know what ya found out,, I got some information thru www. and even more from give these a whirl and see if they have info for yas and let me know what ya decide on I am intrested in off grid living


  3. Rivrdog says:

    Back when photovoltaic was too spendy for most folks, a New Zealand outfit licensed the manufacture of a Stirling-cycle (the OTHER external-combustion engine, invented in Robert Fulton’s day) generator set.

    The genset, built now by Victron energy, is small, but so is it’s fuel requirement. It burns less than a pint an hour, and produces 750 watts. It is designed to run for 90 days nonstop, then have a short stop for decarbonizing the burner can (20 minute operation).

    The unit is virtually silent, and 750 watts will keep a LARGE battery bank charged.

    If used with wind and solar, the Victron unit will power your house for everything except 220-VAC apps like clothes dryers, etc.

    The NZ government, being charged with electrifying ALL dwellings (until a few years ago, they had a significant percentage no electrified), found that using batteries, inverters and the Victron unit was far cheaper than running thousands of new miles of wire all over their mountainous islands.

  4. Rivrdog says:

    BTW, I forgot to mention that the Victron unit also has heat output in the form of water intake and output for water heating, so NONE of those BTUs are wasted. You get something like 6,600 BTU/hr out of it, enough to heat a 12-gallon water tank (which would use a 1500-watt element) with moderate recovery time, or a much larger tank with a long recovery time.

  5. Delbert says:


    Check out the efficiency numbers on VAWT technology before you invest in it. HAWT is the prevailing technology for one major reason – the returning blade has to fight the airstream to get back around.


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