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Is Solar Where We Need it Right Now?

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posted on Jul, 1 2008 @ 08:22 PM
So I am looking into taking the dive and create a solar panel installation company. Is the solar technology where we need it as it stands for this to be a good investment? Is it cost effective, or even "effective" effective enough to sell?

Also, what licenses would I need? Do I need to be a foreman?
Are there tax cuts yet?
To just order the cells for installation, is the cost worth it for the average citizen?

Basically I am looking for some source of info that is all-telling as far as what it takes to get a home-improving solar cell installation company off the ground. I would work residentially and commercially in my local area. Nothing too complex other than the installation.

Anyone have any special interest in solar technology or have tried such an edeavor?

Thanks in advance


posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 01:38 AM
Just like lead acid batteries and wind generators, they are priced WAY too much for the end user. Its not like we have the sun and wind all the time unless your in the right location. If an 800W alternator costs less then $200 and an 18" hobby prop. cost less then $30, then why does an 800w wind gen cost $800-900? Why do lawn tractor batteries cost $10 yet another battery of the same size/weight cost $50?

You also have to figure that people have to buy alot of batteries, a large inverter and panel protector boxes. Just that alone is around $1000! So I would say that, untill the price of solar comes down to about 0.40cents per watt or the economy bounces back, don't do it.

Now, if you could make a large reflective dish with a heat output of 3000W and use a simple steam turbine and sell it for $1000 and make it for $300, then sure!

posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 02:24 AM
I would wait.

There is a company that has developed a special paint, that you can just paint onto surfaces and it acts like solar panels. Nanotechnology is also working with super efficiant solar cells. The solar panels we have today are expensive, bulky, and will probably be out date in the near future.

However, a solar panel installation company is probably going to be a top dollar business in the near future.

Good idea, good luck.

posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 03:30 AM
Thanks a lot friends. Some of what you told me I already know, but most of it was of great help.

I suppose it is an investment for the future. And even then, you'll have to be a jack-of-all-trades solar installer to be the next big thing.

I think its the next big thing. If we can't save on our cars, then why not make home power cheap, or even FREE! We focus too much on one energy-consuming product at a time. It all costs dollars right?

Thanks again for the input. I suppose after some well-planned initiative, I could be ahead of the game in a short period of time. Because, again, I think this technology is already invented, now its just time to make it end user-friendly.

posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 08:45 PM
Your friend in this one is research. And experience.

I will answer the question in a somewhat round-about manner.

The components for solar power are there. The industry is (getting) there, and the prices are lagging way the hell behind. I worked on a solar car team for my local college and got to see a lot of stuff related to solar power. We are really getting close to having some wickedly efficient solar panels at an affordable price. However - the processing methods for such cheap solar panels are still mostly prototypes, at best.

Now - you also need to realize that there are two ways you can go about your business. You could order entire pre-designed systems and install them for customers (like many utility businesses today do) - or you can order bulk components and piece together your own systems.

The advantage of the first method is that you know that what you have will work (assuming it's installed correctly). The disadvantage is that it is more costly. The advantage of the second one is that you can customize the job for each customer and you can get the components for less than you can get the system. However, you have a far greater expenditure of time to design and install a system, and if you don't have a firm grasp of the various quirks of your system, then it may not work as intended (meaning service requests out the whazzoo asking you to come fix the silly thing).

Being an Aviation Electronics Technician - I prefer the second method, because it's the "thrill of design" and the fact that I know exactly what quality of components I am going to be using. Obviously - I know a lot about electronics, so the intricacies of the design are a snap for me, and I know quite a few things to stay away from (like Lithium-Ion batteries.... big no-no for this type of application.... they make them for such applications... but no matter how often they are used, they will decay in a few years to the point where new ones have to be bought.... and they are expensive as hell....)

The key is to research. There are always new products coming out on the market, and always reports on a new installation method or one that is better for certain applications. You will need to familiarize yourself with corrosion prevention and control (I recommend it, at least), research various types of adhesives, epoxies/resins, polymers, etc - that's a new field opening up with regards to any sort of physical installment of devices. Some of them can save you hours of work and withstand the effects of moisture, humidity, and temperature than 'traditional' methods. Others look nice on the can, but don't work quite like it claims. Etc etc.

There's also other things to take into consideration (especially for solar panels), such as local weather. Around here, it's not uncommon to get golfball sized hail..... not exactly a thin sheet of silicon's best friend. Obviously, a bit of shielding would be in order.... but how does the shielding effect the performance of the panel? If it will cut the effectiveness, then it alters all of your design figures, and likely increases the price the customer must pay (not a good thing).

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 08:57 PM
Okay. Now, my perspective isn't that of the average U.S. citizen, which I [perhaps erroniously] presume you are a member. First, as a company selling and installing solar components, I'm not certain that YOU will have a tax credit, but I believe that most of your customers will realize one.

For our own purposes, we in the Carribean, I've researched solar for many years. I currently have a small 5W PV panel to trickle-charge a deep cycle battery that runs a 12V pump for our water pressure system. I have a solar collector for our hot water heater and it works great, often heating the water going into the cold side of the HW tank to 180 degrees. I use a tempering valve on the output side to mix the hot with cold to deliver a proper temperature to the house.

We've looked into outfitting our whole house with solar. We'd LOVE to get off the grid. We have no dishwasher, no clothers dryer, cook with propane, and rarely use a small a/c. Our monthly bills power bill is about $250.00 USD. To set up our small 850 sq. ft. house with total solar would cost about $40,000, including shipping, installation, duties. Manufacturer indicates that the effective life of the panels is 10 years "plus". Okay, let's assume 15 years, even though in a salt environment that seems somewhat unlikely. So, over 15 years, we break even, to say nothing of the uncounted costs of maintenance of the system. Not even to mention the interest incurred for the $40K loan. So, here we are, totally motivated, WANTING it, but it just doesn't fly, at least so far.

Now, I hasten to add, in the ourside world, things might be brighter. I think we really need, as a planet, to delve deeply into these and other related technologies. Sustainable existance. Alas, I cannot afford it.
Good luck! Hope you keep us posted on your endeavors

posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 09:03 PM
I always like the "How Stuff Works" website. They have alot of awesome info on many topics. Just like this one!

I've also found several good videos about solar power on youTube.

posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 09:30 PM

Basically I am looking for some source of info that is all-telling as far as what it takes to get a home-improving solar cell installation company off the ground. I would work residentially and commercially in my local area. Nothing too complex other than the installation.

Solar power is a great source of renewable energy, but it has its downfalls: price and reliability (clouds are a solar panel's worst enemy) are notable among them. But this is not about the pros and cons of solar energy.

Before you start any business, you must know what you are getting into. To do commercial work anywhere or residential work most places, you will need a contractor's license. Usually that requires some advanced knowledge of your proposed receipts. Any idea how much you expect to make in the first year?

Have you given any thought to insurance costs? Not just liability but usually a bond is required and then there's unemployment, workers comp, and preferably umbrella insurance for those unforeseen legal problems.

Have you ever installed a solar system before? The fact that you are needing general information concerns me. A customer will be looking to you for all the answers, and it is your job to provide them.

Do you have a source for the equipment you will be installing? You'll need a wholesaler willing to supply your business, or even better, a few wholesalers.

Do you have any prior business experience?

Corporation or Proprietorship? If corporation, are you thinking S, C, or LLC?

What competition will you have in the area? What form of advertising do you plan to use? How many people will you need, and are you familiar with the governmental red tape on employees? Don't need that surprise visit from OSHA or the NLRB...

Basically what I'm getting at is that starting a new company is a major event, at least as major as a marriage. It's foolhardy to get into any business unless you are extremely familiar with what you will be selling. You have a lot, and I mean a lot, of research to do, and it's into more than the solar panels. You will need a business plan, cost estimates on every aspect of your business, a very good familiarity with the local laws and regulations (expect to spend a few days waiting in lines at City Hall), sources, and preferably a few customers ready and waiting for you to get the paperwork signed. You will also need a huge chunk of cash, at least enough to keep your company running for a year with no customers. That last part is why most businesses fail so quickly.

I would suggest you start with your own home, install some solar systems you can use as demo systems (make them flashy and fancy, that attracts people with money) and start offering to do your neighbors' homes first at a reduced rate before you make a huge leap. Get the experience you need while working wherever you are now, and in a short year or two, maybe you can swing a successful business as you dream.

It just sounds like you are woefully unprepared at present. Great business concept, poor forethought. I wish you well.


posted on Jul, 3 2008 @ 01:56 AM

I am faily skilled at entrepreneurial endeavors. I run mostly media-related businesses at present. So in the actual scheme of solar, I am "woefully" unprepared to actually do it NOW. I know little about the science, and less about the labor.

My plan was to make a huge investment in my own home. I'm talking multiple systems that I could do research with over time to figure out the cost effectiveness for places around me. This will take a while, I realize. But there is absolutely no competition around me, and a massive influx of new homes that will inevitably be possible clients later.

Sorry, I thought I'd get through my whole explaination before getting too tired to finish, but I will get to the rest of the post tomorrow.

Thanks for the heads up guys, I will def be picking your individual minds.

posted on Jul, 3 2008 @ 09:14 AM
reply to post by SantaClaus

Heh, you already answered most of my concerns. Sorry if I sounded harsh, but I cannot count the number of times I have seen people pour money into some new and upcoming scheme with dreams to make a fortune. In over 99% of those cases, they either lost everything, or ended up miserable working too-long hours in a field they learned they hated. I really don't know which fate is worse. I did not want someone else to suffer either. Please forgive me if I offended you in my rush to 'educate'.

Sounds to me like you probably have the business basics down after all. Your idea of using your own house as a trial balloon is exactly what I would recommend. So instead of screaming caution, I will simply advise it and wish you success. Let us know how it turns out.


posted on Jul, 3 2008 @ 12:26 PM
reply to post by argentus

i just installed a system for my house, i tennessee i will promise you this for every $50.00 you want to take of your light bill you will invest $20,000..i can and will atest to this from expierence this year

posted on Jul, 3 2008 @ 03:21 PM
reply to post by SantaClaus

Again, if you have any questions about such systems, in general, feel free to ask me.

As I said, earlier, I'm an Aviation Electronics Technician for the Navy - so I know electronics very well, and I know quite a bit about corrosion and how to prevent it (which is a concern with solar panels - especially when choosing what types to use, since how they are designed and packaged will have a huge impact on their life) - We have to maintain all kinds of metals, composites, adhesives, etc in a salt water environment. I've also worked on a solar car team while in college - so I'm quite familiar with solar power (not to mention I was going to school for electronics at the time).

It is a lot to learn - and I'm always willing to teach and answer questions - but if you are not familiar, at all, with electrical systems, I would recommend that you take a course in electronics at a local community college - talk with the instructors first and find out if they do hands-on learning (get out the breadboard and a DC/AC power supply and have you actually experience the effects described in the book and computer programs) - if you have multiple colleges to choose from, choose the one that gives you the hands-on learning. Any lab fees are worth it.

The Navy is trying to switch its electronics training over to a computerized-only environment (no 'real' hands-on - it's all computer simulations and crap) - and they will find out when planes start crashing into the water that they can't cut those kinds of corners. There's nothing like getting your hands on the equipment. And I know some colleges and instructors use the "computer/book only" approach.

Computers are useful to help students learn (usually how to not make stuff catch on fire.... had that happen a few times - transistors smell really bad when they burn up), but you need the hands-on.

I would say you need to take both DC and AC electronics to get everything you need to design such a system. Though digital electronics wouldn't really hurt - nor would "industrial" electronics (which will deal with more industrial applications and equipment, like Programmable Logic Controllers, Synchros, hydraulics, pneumatics, etc) - but DC and AC is what you would need to get a general idea of what happens to the electric current once it leaves the panels and hits the regulators, batteries, inverters, etc.

Also keep in mind, though, that there are other applications of solar that are far more efficient. Solar water heating is much more efficient than using electricity (no matter where it comes from) to heat the water. So are forms of solar heating during the winter (though that often involves the design of the house).

So keep yourself up to date on those methods, as well. Especially if you have a lot of people moving into your region and a lot of construction going on. People are far more likely to foot the bill for solar powered houses when they are contracting for their house to be built rather than once it's already been built. And since some of the most powerful effects of solar come from the actual design of the house - educating yourself on how to do that, and getting to know a lot of the local construction companies around you would be a very good thing. In short - you can become a subcontractor on a variety of matters that you never would have had available.

posted on Jul, 3 2008 @ 04:24 PM
@ AIM64c (The reply button isnt working again)

I have a feeling I will be sending you a lengthy U2U very soon. Thank you for all the help, you obviously have some experience. I really do appreciate the thought out responses.

Tell me, in your experience, what makes solar water heat more efficient, and how much more efficient is it (I know they are used for different applications). I have heard of a system that uses the heated water to then propel a small water generator, or maybe the steam from the water.. I'll see if I can find the document. SO I guess their system was working 2 fold, although I can't imagine you'd get even negligible electricity generated from it.

@ Redneck

Hey man, no offense taken, I see that as a sign of looking out for your fellow man. I'd do the same if I had seen such a vague OP. Thanks for that.

As far as how big I want the business to be, I'd like to start it more "mom and pop." My father is a fellow investor in this and wanted to retire in about 6 years and run the paperwork. The less in crew we need, the better. My best friend is a roof expert (he is building some base up in Alaska right now... weird stuff for another thread), but he will be back down in a year without employ, so he said he'd be all about it.

Basically, I don't want to get too many youngsters involved due to the cost of the material. I worked modular housing with some 18 year olds and felt bad about some of the walls we'd put out sometimes.

Perhaps I should look into a more convection-oriented efficiency business for right now. Its been around for, well hundreds of years and is just getting to where it can make a HUGE diff in power use. After 4-5 years of that, and when my array is built, I will be more prepared to take the leap.

All this is in the brainstorming "business model" step, obviously. But I can't work for people anymore, and the music industry, while offering me years of happiness, won't pay for the bills when I get a wife and kids.

posted on Jul, 3 2008 @ 05:32 PM
The solar water-heat had a few applications, from directly heating the house (much like geothermal systems) to providing hot water for the residents to use. Usually it's heated and stowed in a reservoir that is then heated to a certain temperature and maintained.

I was referring to the process of heating water, though - not necessarily of providing electrical power. Using solar power to directly heat your water before putting it into an efficient hot-water heater is overall more efficient than heating cold water with electricity - especially if it's from solar panels.

Using mirrors to heat water (or oil) and drive turbines is more efficient for high-power applications, but it takes a lot of area to really work, and is useful only for high power applications (like an industrial complex or something).

Also, a major part of the energy spent on heating/cooling the house is directly related to the amount of insulation used in the home. Our house has walls that are about twice as thick as the average house, and a lot of insulation in the attic, as well - it's quite efficient. Likewise, this sort of stuff should be taken into account with house design (if you wish to get into that).

For instance, designing the roof or the overall floor plan so that more surface is exposed to the sun in the winter than in the summer is a start. In the winter - you want more heating from the sun, and in the summer, you want less. While this is not exactly easy to do - it is a factor.

Additionally, placing more of a home under the ground tends to keep the house closer to 60 degrees at all times of the year. Though coastal areas are often prohibited from doing that (as you'll dig down and hit water, instead of more ground). So keeping the AC above 63 and keeping the heat below 60 would put the ground, itself, to use in heating/cooling your home and not have your central-air system fighting it. Some people might find that uncomfortable, but what's cheaper - putting on a sweater and a pair of house-shoes, or keeping a few thousand cubic feet of air 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than the ground, itself?

As energy prices cause us to put bigger and bigger numbers on graphs, the market of "energy consultation" and various efficient devices will grow as well. People will want to know how to cut their costs - both in existing homes and in homes they are having built. Such consultation could be given while you are contracting for a job (as little tidbits of advice), or as a separate service that you charge for - or a little of both.

[edit on 3-7-2008 by Aim64C]

posted on Jul, 3 2008 @ 09:11 PM
reply to post by SantaClaus
I do have some constructive food for thought... I am designing a geothermal heating/cooling system for my home right now. I know the HVAC is the single largest power sucker in the average home (from that stint years ago as an electrician), and this thing should run with only a few fans, aided by a water heater for supplemental heat during cold months. I also know solar makes a pretty good hot water source... so...

Anyway, if you're interested, I could pass along any info I glean from this project, when I get it installed.


Edit to add: I just read Aim64C's response to you, sounds like you have two geothermal/hot water advocates.

[edit on 3-7-2008 by TheRedneck]

posted on Jul, 6 2008 @ 06:48 PM

Originally posted by Aim64C
I was referring to the process of heating water, though - not necessarily of providing electrical power. Using solar power to directly heat your water before putting it into an efficient hot-water heater is overall more efficient than heating cold water with electricity - especially if it's from solar panels.

I have constructed and installed passive thermosiphon solar hot water on two of my rental properties. I rent them "utilities included" and I save about $30/month per unit on water heating. The units themselves cost me about $500 each in parts and a few days of tinkering. Totally worth it for guilt free showers all summer long.

some other solar technologies you may also be interested in:

solar methanol absorption refrigeration
trombe wall solar heating
solar hot water preheating
solar drinking water distillation

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