Thinking about going solar? Modern Farmer has the scoop on which panel is right for you.
Whether you live in the country, city or suburbs, solar panels — those blue rectangles that soak up the sun’s rays and generate environmentally friendly electricity — have become a common sight. And they are going to become even more common as prices fall — quickly. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the average cost of a panel sunk by 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and mid-2013.
At today’s low prices, investing in solar panels can pay for itself in a relatively short period, particularly in a state where electricity is expensive and/or good incentive programs exist. (A state-by-state listing can be found at dsireusa.org.) Sometimes, local governments provide incentives, and some utility companies reward customers who install panels.
One constant anywhere in the United States is a 30 percent federal renewable energy tax credit that takes a chunk out of purchase and installation costs. Combine that with today’s lower prices and up-front costs can be recouped almost anywhere in the country within the typical 25-year life expectancy of modern solar panels, according to Andy Hershberger, president and CEO of Virginia-based Shenandoah Solar. Still, there are a few things to consider.
“It’s good for folks to get their utility bills and look at what they use on a monthly basis and a yearly basis,” says Andy Tyson, co-founder and owner of Creative Energies, which designs and installs solar electric systems in the West.
Such data is key to designing a system and calculating its payback period. Solar panels need sunshine, so an unshaded spot on the roof or nearby is a must. While the amount of sunshine received by a given place varies, there are very few places in the lower 48 where an unshaded panel won’t perform well, says Tyson.
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
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