(Kurt Rice) – For me, the thought of using the sun’s asphalt-melting energy to power my air-conditioned cocoon, light up my big screen and chill my beer is a dream right up there with putting a human colony on Mars. Unfortunately, for the last several decades, photovoltaic (PV) solar power hasn’t been economically feasible for single-family homes, and thermal solar power is only workable in larger-scale plants such as the one in Ivanpah just south of Primm.
But advances in the efficiency of PV solar-technology production and manufacturing have gradually put rooftop solar within budgetary range. So I recently set out to find answers to some elusive questions. For instance: Would going solar make me energy independent? How much would it cost? And, most importantly, how many beers could I chill at once?
First, some general info about Standalone PV solar power systems: They’re actually pretty simple. Panel modules mounted on your roof convert available sunlight into a 12-volt DC power stream, similar to that produced by a car battery. That power is then converted to standard household 120-volt AC power by an inverter that’s connected to your home’s electrical system. Because power stops flowing at night or on cloudy days, a standalone system also requires batteries.
Now, I’m not a Doomsday Prepper, nor am I particularly motivated to drastically alter my lifestyle to address climate change. Really, I am fine with the almost 12-cents-per-kilowatt-hour, uninterrupted supply of electricity provided by NVEnergy. But I am curious if going solar would help reduce my annual $1,500 in electric bills. How much would it run me to cut the NVEnergy cord and generate my own beer-cooling power?