Can you help me work past the confusion of equipping a cabin with photovoltaic panels?

Can you help me work past the confusion of equipping a cabin with photovoltaic panels? I could connect to the grid, but I like the idea of generating my own, cheap electricity.

I recently priced a PV system to generate enough power for lights, a small fridge, a water well pump and computer (no stove, water heater, or workshop). Total cost for a system capable of delivering power year-round would be about $30,000. $20K of this is for panels that last 20 years (annual cost $1000, not including lost interest), and the remaining $10K is for a bank of batteries that I’m told would be toast in 6 years (annual cost $1600). That’s a $2600 annual cost, plus the environmental realities of dealing with hundreds of pounds of old lead acid batteries. Compare this with grid power that would probably cost $200 or $300 per year for the same level of power consumption and you’ve got to stop and think. Government subsidies are present that make photovoltaics a paying proposition if you feed power back into the grid, but it’s legitimate to question how “sustainable” this approach is when you consider that the personal share of total government debt is about $40,000 for every Canadian, according to a June 30 Financial Post article. I certainly like the idea of photovoltaics, and though the technology is advancing. Unfortunately, it’s still not sufficient to produce cheap power.

Posted on January 17th, 2013

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