You’re excited. You finally found the perfect piece of land, away from the crowded city, to build your vacation retreat. Or, maybe you want to move there year-round to savor a slower, stressfree life. As you enjoy the dream of living more simply, take a moment to reflect on some of the practical matters you’ll need to attend to in order to make your dream come true.
Getting electricity to your new home may feel like the first, and perhaps easiest issue to solve. Solar energy has been around for decades and is the most common form of off-the-grid power generation. However, generating electricity from the sun isn’t as simple as putting up some photovoltaic panels–problem solved. Before you start planning how you’ll layout your new property, consider these advantages and disadvantages of solar power.
- Lower or eliminate your electricity bill – Whether you stay connected to the grid or you size your solar array to meet all your energy needs, installing solar power will reduce the amount you pay for energy over time.
- Net metering (if applicable) – If your solar electrical system is connected to the grid, in many areas the local power company will buy back the excess energy your produce. Not only does this benefit you, in terms of cost savings, but it means you spread the environmental savings to your neighbors. The more you put back into the grid, the less dirty energy the utilities will need to generate.
- Fixed price energy – One of the biggest advantages of producing your own power is that you’re not held hostage to the whim of utility companies. Energy costs from utilities increase yearly. Installing photovoltaic panels to generate electricity stabilizes the price you pay for energy.
- Protect the environment – The harmful effects of climate change are getting hard to ignore. And you probably want to do what you can to limit your impact on the environment.
Lately, the news has carried multiple stories about the dirty side of manufacturing solar panels. And it’s good to consider the impact of manufacturing on the environment. However, National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded within 1 to 4 years of their useful life, solar panels will produce more clean energy than the energy required to make them. Given that solar panels have a life expectancy of 30 years or more, solar panels remains one of the top green energy sources.
(Image source: SolarCraft–NREL concluded that “…for an investment of from 1 to 4 years worth of their energy output, PV systems can provide as much as 30 years or more of clean energy.”)
- Solar prices dropping – Improvements in photovoltaic cell design have driven down solar panel prices for the past decade. Research conducted at MIT finds that trend is likely to continue.
- Diverse application – Often, when people think of solar energy, they think about installing an array of solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. However, the sun can do so much more. For instance, an inexpensive solar water heater can supply hot water to your new homestead. If the local water supply requires extra purification, you can set up a solar water distiller to produce clean water.
- Low maintenance cost – After you install a solar array, there’s very little maintenance required. It’s a good idea to clean off the panels every few months. And, if leaves or branches fall on your panels, you should clear them off, too. Otherwise, there’s not much for you to do.
- High initial cost – It’s true that the price for solar energy drops yearly. However, the price to buy and install solar panels can cost between $10,000 to $15,000. In a sense, you’re buying all your electricity at once instead of paying a utility for your monthly usage. Once you buy the system or pay off the loan to finance the system, your cost for energy drops nearly to zero. But such a large initial outlay of cash can still be difficult.
- Space and placement requirements – Unlike a power line coming from the local utility, solar electricity needs space on your property. If you plan for it, you can use the space on your roof. In order to get the most from your solar panels, you’ll need to place them at a 30-degree angle with an unobstructed view of the southern sky.
- Clouds or shadows from nearby trees reduce the efficiency – Solar panels can still produce energy on cloudy days, just not as much. When looking at how many panels you’re installation will need, keep in mind yearly weather patterns. If your property is in an area that’s often cloudy, you might want to install a bigger system. Also, make sure that the system won’t be shadowed by nearby trees or buildings. Any shadows on a panel reduce the efficiency of the whole system.
- Lower power production in the winter – Solar panels require constant direct sunlight to be most effective. It stands to reason that in winter months when days are shorter, your system will produce less energy. Keep this in mind while considering the size of your solar system.
- Difficult to find quality installers – Not all areas have qualified installers. Do some early research into installers near your property. If you’re handy, it may be possible for you to install the system yourself. However, federal, state, and local governments often have rebates and other incentives for installing solar panels. A professional installer will build those savings into their estimate. If you want to do it yourself, be sure to know what those incentives are and how to qualify for them.
- Battery back up to use at night – When you generate electricity from the sun, no sun means no power. Unless your system is connected to the grid and you’re using net metering, at night you’ll have to rely on battery back up to supply your home with electricity. Just as solar panels get cheaper and more efficient, however, so to do backup batteries. During the day, your panels will supply your home with power and recharge the batteries. If you’re frugal with your energy usage during the winter, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Are you looking for the perfect piece of land for a vacation cabin? Let the experts at Generation Family Properties help. We want to help you find a property your family will enjoy for generations to come. Contact us at 775-234-2058, and we will happily answer all your questions.