Photovoltaic systems - product and opinion etc.

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Senior Member
We're interested in getting some opinions on PV systems for at least 7kW, residential. The systems are new to us and in general so we have no easy-to-read basis for comparison based on reputation or performance.

The first question is about product. We've spoken with a few reps and with people that could be considered knowledgeable third party and it seems that BP panels and SMA inverters are a solid way to go, but it's important that we get some feedback from ECs or installers who have firsthand experience with these or other systems as to reliability, build quality, ease of installation etc. Basically we're interested in providing the same kind of quality and reputation for a solar install that SquareD QO or Cutler-Hammer CH panels would offer a homeowner. Any opinions or recommendations?

Secondly, does anyone have any info on the status of the Tariff Pay-in program in PA? As of now it seems there isn't a program in place and it's hard to find info or where the legal process is and how soon there might be such a program. Anything you might know would be helpful.

Thirdly, can anyone offer conjecture as to what's on the horizon for PV systems? Is there something right around the corner that we should know about before selling someone a $60,000 or $100,000 install?


P.S. This project does not involve the boss that you've heard me whine about so often here ;) Instead, my brother and I are starting to explore ways to work together utilizing both of our strengths to bring more value to the family business.


Staff member
Peter I have designed/build quite a few of the PV systems.

The best advice I can give you is stick with very well known companies like BP, Kyrocera, Sharp, etc. The reason is obvious because these companies do not depend on solar alone to keep them in biz, and will be there tomorrow to support their product. There are a ton of solar manufactures out their like the Chinese companies and will be out of biz soon. Not to mention many do not carry a UL listing. So stick with the big boys or you will end up regretting it.


Senior Member
I recently sat in a meeting with a utility employee locally whom answered some questions for us and shed light on a few items I did not know as I have not had the PV experience yet. He obviously had a slanted view but informational nonetheless.

At least locally: the PV and associated hardware shut down with loss of power from poco.........if it is intended as EM type power it may not work for the HO.

The max size for residential payback($20000) is 5 KW whether that is federal or state I am not sure and after 5 kw there are no reimbursement funds available.

VERY expensive.......5 kw is $50000 or so, payback is 20+ years.

After that meeting I was not so keen on the idea, but I think it will get better as technology catches up. He did preach conservation before alternative energy (solar water heater, insulation, white roof, geothermal a/c............... :)
First off Financials....

A PV system installed can range between $6-10 a watt. The site location, mounting will affect this mostly.

There is a 30% Federal tax credit (residential and commercial) that will go for the INSTALLED COST of the system (so the total amount spent)

There will be a 30% grant for commercial systems as opposed to the tax credit sometime this year.

There are many states that have similar tax credits that are ON TOP of the Federal. Colorado and New Jersey come to mind as states with these in place.

Utilities are also (either by choice or being forced) putting residential and commercial customers into power buyback agreements. Because alot of states have Renewable energy requirements on the utility. Depending on the Utility it isn't out of the question for a customer to get 20-30cents a kWh produced (if they use it or they transmit it) paid to them via the utility. Bear in mind that this is different for EVERY utility.

Next up Siting PV...

You MUST design the PV system according to the solar resources of the site. This means finding out the amount of solar energy that the site receives on average.

Code Regarding PV

Refer to John Wiles for some GREAT NEC information on PV along with article 690.

Any questions shoot them on here.


Senior Member
I have a real problem getting serious with PV (especially at $6-$8/W) unless it's a long way from a power pole, an EM backup or gov. funded.

Washington can change their mind at the drop of a hat so if I expect nothing I won't be disappointed.
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