“What’s the cost per panel?”

That is one of the most common questions we receive here at YellowLite. Usually, it is when we are out at an event or show and have one of our standard panels displayed, leaning up against a wall or on a chair. People want to know the cost based on a standardized size. A lot of people will simply divide the total cost of the system by the number of panels.

In a lot of ways, this is actually not a bad way of thinking about the total cost. It simplifies the process. You determine how much production you want and the size of the system is determined by the amount of sunlight you get, the angle and orientation of the panels, as well as the efficiency of the rest of the system. One of the big drawbacks of determining the system size by number of panels is that there is a range of panel sizes. Typically, the vast majority of panels fall within the 260 – 340 watt range. So to tell someone what the cost of their system is on a per-panel basis may not be the most precise way to determine if they are getting a good deal.

If a 5 kW array costs around $13,000 (prior to the 30% Federal Tax Credit, $9,100 after the credit), then you would need between 15-19 panels for the installation. The following table will demonstrate in a little more clarity.

The cost per panel would necessarily vary by quite a bit. In this case, the cost varies by around $180. Without knowing the size of the panels, it is not possible to compare and contrast the prices of different systems and different offers. The way we overcome this is through standardizing cost on a per-watt basis.

In order to make a comparison, we will assume the installation of a rooftop array with Canadian Solar panels with an SMA string inverter. The price per watt for a 5 kW array in America and through YellowLite is therefore:

According to research by GTM in conjunction with SEIA, the cost of solar had dropped from $3.14 during Q2 to $2.98 per watt during Q3. This is a huge decrease over the course of one quarter. Based upon these numbers, we can tell you that YellowLite’s pricing is a little more than 11% less than the national average.  

Rules Of Thumb In Considering A Quote

Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when you are seriously considering going solar and receive a quote:

Bigger is cheaper, per watt. The cost per watt decreases as you get a larger system and take advantage of the economies of scale. So you really want to go bigger if you can. Most people who get a small system (less than 3 kW) generally do so for environmental reasons.

·         Higher efficiency solar panel brands require fewer panels. They cost more initially and will have a higher rate of return upon a longer time frame.

·         Prices will drop a little bit over the next few years, but nothing like the price decrease that the industry has experienced since 2010. Prices will generally remain at around the current level. 

When you do decide to compare quotes, looking at the price per watt is the best way to go. It should also be noted that this is not the only criteria in choosing a solar company for your installation. However, we all know that price is a major factor when a person decides to choose between different companies.