how much does Solar cost to get started?

well Vermont also you get paid but you don't the way the state wrote he law is a little weird, if you produce and excess for what you use they give you a credit on bill BUT here is the kicker , ok so you are producing own power and if you are producing a surplus your only bill will be for the reading of meter which is via a wireless link and a very small fee of around $20 a month. with way law was written there was a loop hole, so you produce surplus and have a credit of lets say $250 -$20 for meter reading (actual bill) so you have a credit of 230 right ....... wrong because of the way the law was written they do not have to carry over credits.

But as for your question of cost there are a number of factors, when they came here to install the sales man was all hyped up on how cheap it was blah blah blah. they priced to people the cheapest and least efficient type set up they could do and a were making massive profit. Things that affect solar cost include,
#1 type of solar cell - mono or poly crystalline.
#2 Grid tied or non grid tied.
#3 Fixed or tracking mounting system
#4 If fix is it ground or roof mounted system
#5 if track is if single axis or dual axis tracker
#6 regional solar hrs a day average ( closer to equator the higher the number ).
#7 Type of storage system and controls including off site app access via phone compatible
#8 Ability to go off grid and disconnect from main power gird in event of power outage , basically what some refer to as grid demand system ( more expensive a controller and linking this is what i went with, be aware all grid tied system unless you go with a grid demand - if the grid goes down it also shuts you down for safety of any lineman that have to work on power grid. not all areas allow the system like i have and to best of my knowledge all power grids if you are connected with solar you have to have it installed at the panel and controls by a certified electrician which is an added cost
#9 if you stay off grid non grid tied system and produce enough to cover your need you do not need a certified electrician But be aware some communities and states like here in the usa have decided to make some new crazy laws a house not connected to a grid system is not habitable, just like they tried with a buddies house he has a full composting toilet and artesian well and off grin solar they tried to condemn his property and house


so this all being said mine is a 4kw dual axis tracker ground mounted with remote app access so i can check active system health if need to. fixed none tracking cost $10700 usd with footing already poured for mounts, full tracking which return up to 40 % more energy then no tracking 21750 usd with footings poured for mount included storage and charge system invertor and remote before tax rebates.
would i do it again? to be dead honest maybe but very doubtful because most of the incentives and rebates have gone away here and those returned a little over half the cost of my system. Best return at sun highest in sky in summer 15.8kw day 474 kw ( $104 savings ) monthly; worst winter mid december 6.65 Kw day just under 200KW ($ 44 savings ) monthly so the return versus cost rough average a year $890 is not great but advantage it does give you ability to have back up power if grid goes down. Had it figured up at one point the pay back time on a yearly average would be be just over 11 years without taking into account of maintenance on system over the years.
 
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I'm in the USA, so our prices are different. But I suggest you experiment with a small, semi-portable system for a few months and keep very detailed data on how much power you generate and how much you actually use before you spend significant money. Here at our local "big box" hardware store, you can buy four "straight out of the box" 100 watt solar panels, a 750 power inverter, and a 30-amp charge controller for around $750 USD.


Add a deep cycle marine battery for around $250.....


... and for $1,000 USD, you've got a system which can keep your refrigerator running for 24 hours -if- you have a sunny day from day-to-day.

I suggest you mount it on the roof of a nice south-facing utility shed that is close to your house (you must keep the battery very close to the panels or you lose power in the lines), and then experiment, track data.

I live in New England (northern USA) where we get very dark, cold winters, so 4 panels is not enough to keep my fridge running for 24 hours in the winter. I need 8 panels and 3 batteries to keep my freezer frosty :) But I started small, scaled up, tracked my data, and figured out how large of a system I needed for "emergency power". With 5 people in my house, 3 of them teenagers, and my tech-addicted husband, none of them willing to change their electrical usage habits, it would cost us $60,000 to go fully off-grid. But right now I've got around $8,000 invested in solar panels and batteries (mostly the batteries are the large cost as I went with a pricey Goal Zero battery/inverter that we can bring on camping trips) and when the power goes out, I can keep the highest priority items running (chest freezer, a few lights) and have enough power left over to run a load of laundry if its a sunny day. In the summer, I can run all kinds of things off 800 watts of panels, but my backup solar system is for emergencies, and during those situations, we get days at a time with cloudy, snowy, stormy weather.

You can also build a D.I.Y. rack to mount your panels if you want to remain low-key so as not to tip off the building inspector or nosy neighbors that you are experimenting with off-grid power. On a small, semi-portable system with that few panels, it helps to be able to shift your panels to continuously face the sun to get the most out of it. You can build them out of angle-iron, or PVC, or wood. I know somebody who built one out of pressure treated 2x4's and 2x6's, with bicycle wheels for easy movement, and they've got 12 panels mounted to it that they shift around like a "chicken tractor." Just look up DIY racks on the internet, there are all kinds of ingenious solutions.

EDIT: after tracking data for two years, we decided NOT to scale up to a full-house system because the $20,000 system they were trying to sell us was totally inadequate to do what they claimed it would do, and we calculated based on real usage that it would cost $60,000 to install a system large enough to meet our actual needs, with a R.O.I. (return on investment) of more than 20 years (not the 6 years that they claimed). The problem is the batteries, not the solar panels. Which is why I'm advising "experiment and track data" before you plunge all-in on a full-sized system. Geography and local weather also play a huge factor on R.O.I. Most of the calculations they tell you are on brand-new equipment placed in an ideal geography under ideal weather conditions, and with participants who are willing to adapt their energy usage and purchase super-efficient appliances and make significant weatherproofing and lighting improvements in their houses to actually live with those systems. I'm not dissing solar ... its wonderful technology ... just suggesting you track data to figure out what you REALLY need before you spend ton of money. -I- would be perfectly happy with just my fridge, a few LED lights, my microwave, and a couple of loads of laundry a week, if it means going off-grid, but the rest of my household members live for energy-guzzling gadgets and refuse to give them up.
 
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scottish maiden i am also in new england and yes even here in the states the prices vary region to region and sadly to say who is the hungriest for seller at the time, the issue like you call out diy a few of us have the knowledge but the average person setting up a system do not, its not just the number of panels. diy racks do not fall under building inspectors in many areas if they are stand alone. there is more then just grabbing random parts. keeping the battery close is not a factor its the size of wires you run to carry the power efficiently. and as said batteries are probably the single heaviest cost in systems but if you are grid tied many of the newer grid tied do not even use batteries now one of the reasons i laid out the list of various things that affect cost as for monocrystalline versus polycrystalline the monocrystalline are slight bit more efficient at converting solar radiation to electrical power go to amazon prime you can get same set up you show from homedepot about $50 cheaper. but those units are the very basic start units and scaling up to full as you say is extremely pricy, if we were further south in the gulf states region we would see much better return for the investment
 
scottish maiden i am also in new england and yes even here in the states the prices vary region to region and sadly to say who is the hungriest for seller at the time, the issue like you call out diy a few of us have the knowledge but the average person setting up a system do not, its not just the number of panels. diy racks do not fall under building inspectors in many areas if they are stand alone. there is more then just grabbing random parts. keeping the battery close is not a factor its the size of wires you run to carry the power efficiently. and as said batteries are probably the single heaviest cost in systems but if you are grid tied many of the newer grid tied do not even use batteries now one of the reasons i laid out the list of various things that affect cost as for monocrystalline versus polycrystalline the monocrystalline are slight bit more efficient at converting solar radiation to electrical power go to amazon prime you can get same set up you show from homedepot about $50 cheaper. but those units are the very basic start units and scaling up to full as you say is extremely pricy, if we were further south in the gulf states region we would see much better return for the investment
A whole-house system is probably beyond the ability for most people to just step in and D.I.Y. - I think its worth the investment to hire a reputable installer. Its just that I see people make these HUGE investments in systems that are either way too complicated and expensive for them to maintain, or that don't do what they THINK the system will do, so they become bitter.

But a small system like I suggested is good for experimentation. It doesn't cost a lot, you get a bit of backup power, but the real value is the ability to get some hands-on experience to understand how the system works and how you have to adapt your life to live with such a system. Most people are handy enough to throw a couple of solar panels up on their shed-roof or prop them along a fence and play. It will make them appreciate the professionals :) Some will keep experimenting, and go full-MacGyver to build their own system. Others will realize, as we did, that the "economic savings" they tout is dubious, so the calculation shifts to other concerns, such as self-reliance.
 
true a small system specially here in northeast can be that little difference in emergencies. I started in solar and energy eff. buildings back when it was unheard of in the 70's, it was still a new technology for commercial use, it helps i hold dual masters degrees one of which is electrical engineering and that as a kid my dad who was a master electrician made me work and assist him in wiring for many years and i grew up working on grandpas farm so always been hands on and learning. i have even built and assembled my own solar panels.
As a supplement solar is good the newer variants of cells today and some of the solar active paints and coatings will be game changers in the future. And the cost have dropped over the years from $70 to $80 a watt in the 1970's to on average $3 a watt today ( USD ).
To size a system proper can be tricky for even some sales people you need to work backward worst case scenario from batteries up base on how much do you want to supplement for power and how many days it has to be able to supply that amount, then work from there through the charge system eff. and many factors as I mention effective power output of panel array for a selected time of year you want the power, as example we may get 7 hours a day of sun in winter but of a fix non tracking unit you can only account for about 3.5 hrs a day affective return, so yes for the average diy its almost out of feasible reach.
A fast cheat is if you can get get someone to come it do a plot plan for a predetermined solar output at a minimal or no cost and a spec list for your approval then you have a raw list of components.
another little hint i also at one point got some mylar film from homedepot they had it mispriced below wholesale cost for 100 ft rolls i use it in my hydroponics but also test additional outrig wings on my tracking system so it gathered and reflected additional light onto the panels basically doubling the affective light hitting the cells. I did see and very measurable increase in output but would i suggest it no extra visible and nonvisible light spectrums increase the heat on the cells which can shorten the life of the cell, winter when you will have lower temperatures maybe but not in summer and the small added gain you would notice already off reflect off snow pack compared to bare darker ground.
 
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true a small system specially here in northeast can be that little difference in emergencies. I started in solar and energy eff. buildings back when it was unheard of in the 70's, it was still a new technology for commercial use, it helps i hold dual masters degrees one of which is electrical engineering and that as a kid my dad who was a master electrician made me work and assist him in wiring for many years and i grew up working on grandpas farm so always been hands on and learning. i have even built and assembled my own solar panels.
As a supplement solar is good the newer variants of cells today and some of the solar active paints and coatings will be game changers in the future. And the cost have dropped over the years from $70 to $80 a watt in the 1970's to on average $3 a watt today ( USD ).
To size a system proper can be tricky for even some sales people you need to work backward worst case scenario from batteries up base on how much do you want to supplement for power and how many days it has to be able to supply that amount, then work from there through the charge system eff. and many factors as I mention effective power output of panel array for a selected time of year you want the power, as example we may get 7 hours a day of sun in winter but of a fix non tracking unit you can only account for about 3.5 hrs a day affective return, so yes for the average diy its almost out of feasible reach.
A fast cheat is if you can get get someone to come it do a plot plan for a predetermined solar output at a minimal or no cost and a spec list for your approval then you have a raw list of components.
another little hint i also at one point got some mylar film from homedepot they had it mispriced below wholesale cost for 100 ft rolls i use it in my hydroponics but also test additional outrig wings on my tracking system so it gathered and reflected additional light onto the panels basically doubling the affective light hitting the cells. I did see and very measurable increase in output but would i suggest it no extra visible and nonvisible light spectrums increase the heat on the cells which can shorten the life of the cell, winter when you will have lower temperatures maybe but not in summer and the small added gain you would notice already off reflect off snow pack compared to bare darker ground.
In my state, they give these companies HUGE tax credits for going around to people's houses and selling them grid-tied "leased" systems, so there are all kinds of shady salespeople running around, trying to get people to sign up to get leased solar panels on their roofs. And then the companies go out of business and the homeowners are left with a roof full of solar panels that they don't own, but that need to be maintained, and are usually poorly sized / made with substandard solar panels, and they can't even replace faulty panels or tie them to their own battery backup system or inverter for emergency backup power because the ownership to the panels is in receivership in some bankruptcy court where the bond-holder is some bank that knows absolutely nothing about the asset they just got saddled with maintaining. So a person really SHOULD experiment with a small system and what it will run for a while if for no other reason than to tell when a company is trying to sell you some B.S.

Most of the so-called "climate change" and "green energy" projects the government keeps pushing are like that ... basically money-laundering for these shady companies to reap the tax credits, and then cash out. The taxpayers end up footing the bill, while the people pushing these programs simply set up shop as a NEW tax-credit harvesting scheme.

But energy efficiency and off-grid power are still laudable goals, if for no other reason than to have the ability to pull the plug and tell the powers-that-be to 'eff off if they try to stick it to you for one scam too many.

That's the REAL reason behind the sudden push to phase out gas stoves and heaters ... btw. All the people in the south-western states that bought into solar panels 20 years ago have bought out their lease contracts and now own their solar systems outright. With states such as California sticking it to ratepayers constantly, while at the same time inflicting them with chronic blackouts, its all too easy to throw in an inverter, add a couple of batteries, and call the power company to tell them to disconnect the line, you don't need them anymore. Off-grid power is totally feasible once you learn how to live with the quirks of "bad power days" if you have an alternative source of fuel to heat your house and cook your supper. The system doesn't work if the cash-cattle stop producing milk for the do-nothings. So the powers-that-be are scrambling to eliminate the ability to cut the cord. Which is how you know "green energy" (at a utility-wide scale) is nothing but a globalist money-laundering scam. REAL alternative energy, on the other hand, is entirely plausible.
 
Thank you all for your comments. I know nothing about electricity. We are here in MT and my local electric company tells me to just "go ahead and do your thing--we don't bill and don't credit". That doesn't make sense to me, but we are so far away it might be easier for them to get rid of us ! ? My local farm supply offers free standing panels and batteries for running electric fences. I have a beautiful open area that has a direct south (and north) facing exposure. It is clear all year around, although the sun does rotate behind some trees around 3:00PM. My question is how far away can it be from the cabin? The cabin faces west with much shorter clear sun exposure time. Question: can I run a large enough system in the sunny spot to feed into an auxiliary system closer to the cabin? Can I put a second battery closer to the cabin? What would be the maximum distance between source and cabin? DH is a fine architect and hates this old cabin !! He wants to tear it down, but I don't want to load up the land with bank mortgages! Thanks for your thoughts--please keep the info simple for the simple minded ! :)
 
Thank you all for your comments. I know nothing about electricity. We are here in MT and my local electric company tells me to just "go ahead and do your thing--we don't bill and don't credit". That doesn't make sense to me, but we are so far away it might be easier for them to get rid of us ! ? My local farm supply offers free standing panels and batteries for running electric fences. I have a beautiful open area that has a direct south (and north) facing exposure. It is clear all year around, although the sun does rotate behind some trees around 3:00PM. My question is how far away can it be from the cabin? The cabin faces west with much shorter clear sun exposure time. Question: can I run a large enough system in the sunny spot to feed into an auxiliary system closer to the cabin? Can I put a second battery closer to the cabin? What would be the maximum distance between source and cabin? DH is a fine architect and hates this old cabin !! He wants to tear it down, but I don't want to load up the land with bank mortgages! Thanks for your thoughts--please keep the info simple for the simple minded ! :)
I'm not a solar expert or an electrical engineer, so take this advice for what it is worth. But when experimenting with my 800 watt system in the winter, I added a 10-meter cable so I could keep the battery up on the deck, out of the snow, and I lost, on average, 15 watts of power PER SOLAR PANEL (15 watts pp x 8 panels = 120 watt total drop of efficiency). Now, if you're in a super sunny location, with the long days of summer, and plenty of sunny days in a row to recharge your batteries, that 15-watt per panel drop might not mean much, but here in New England, where we get weeks at a time of grey, cloudy weather in the winter, and only 8 hours of sunlight (only 4 of which I have a sunny spot to put my solar panels where they aren't shaded by an immovable object such as the house or a tree), that 120 total wattage drop of input was fatal. So snow or no snow, rain or shine, my battery gets wheeled down the steps of the deck to a place that I shoveled out and sheltered from bad weather by a Rubbermaid tub.

On the other hand, once the battery is charged, if I run a 15 meter extension cord out to the battery where it is recharging right underneath the panels to whatever I feel like plugging in (usually the washing machine or the fridge), it didn't seem to create that much of an additional drain on the battery. You lose energy anyways when you run your inverter to transfer it from 12v DC to AC, so the extension cord didn't really seem to make that much of a difference over that small additional distance, though I noticed when I ran the 30 meter cord out to the side-yard, it seemed to chug battery power, but that just might have been the thing we were running.

I could also solve the "sun is low in the sky and casts a big shadow" problem by putting in rooftop panels and the panels directly underneath, but our town "taxes" rooftop solar energy systems by what THEY say is the fair market value of the system at the local property tax rate, which completely wipes out any cost-savings I might get from the electricity. So I keep my system out of sight, in the backyard, on my rinky-dink "solar panel chicken tractor". Unfortunately my yard is a typical modest suburban lot, so once you account for the house and the trees (which shade the house in the summer), there aren't a lot of places left in the yard for optimal solar energy except a rooftop or shed-roof. Our current shed-roof is angled the wrong direction and directly underneath trees, but a friend of mine has a barn-roof system about the same size as mine and it makes a significant dent in their electric bills. THEIR town doesn't tax their rooftop panels, though...

Anyways, take that advice for what it is worth. There's another commentator on here who seems to know a lot more about the specifics, so maybe they'll give you a better answer.
 
Thank you. That helps to shed some light (no pun intended) on the subject and gives me something to think about!
I just received this advertisement in my email--funny how those things are working now days! Here is the link to local advertising.
Do you know these people?
 
Thank you. That helps to shed some light (no pun intended) on the subject and gives me something to think about!
I just received this advertisement in my email--funny how those things are working now days! Here is the link to local advertising.
Do you know these people?
There are THREE ways to get solar panels installed these days:

1. You allow a solar energy company to "lease" your rooftop. They install the system. They pay the cost. They maintain it. YOU contract to buy electricity at a set rate over X number of years until the system is totally depreciated (last time I looked, it was 20 years). At the end of 20 years, they are supposed to remove the system, but you can purchase the system (which now produces about HALF the amount of electricity it did when new) at a drastically discounted rate. When the street power goes out, you have no electricity. Because you don't "own" the system, you are not allowed to install an inverter or batteries to rectify that problem so long as they own it. Even at "half power", because you have the rooftop mounts and the wires run inside your house, its a lot cheaper for you to replace dying solar panels as they wear out a few at a time and keep it going in perpetuity.

2. You buy an off-grid system on your own, plus your own batteries, inverters, and power box. There are some tax credits you are able to reap, but it is still very expensive. But you own the system. You maintain it. You need to have an electrician wire it up properly inside your house so you don't accidentally electrocute a line-man when the power goes out and they go to maintain the wires and oops! You zap them.

3. You arrange a "lease-to-own" system where you allow the same people who are selling lease-top systems to install it, but you arrange to buy out the system after a few years so you can take advantage of the extra tax credits they get, but you'll get off-grid quicker then if you sit there, wishfully thinking, "I wish I had a spare $30,000 to buy an off-grid system."

Anyways, here are some excellent articles that were posted on Survival Blog by members who are experimenting with solar. If you're not familiar with SurvivalBlog, its run by James Wesley Rawles, the author of "Patriots", and one of the "grandfathers" of the preparedness movement. These articles are written by hard-core preppers who have lived the lifestyle and done the thing for decades, with a heavy emphasis on D.I.Y. The three articles by St. Funogas are written by a dedicated prepper in a situation similar to a lot of us, in that we WANT to go solar and are willing to invest a bit every year to go off-grid, but don't have a huge chunk of cash up-front.

EDIT: Added one more article at the end of this where somebody explains their cost for their 100% off-grid home ... is interesting to read detailed numbers:

PV Solar Panels Can Pay For Themselves, by St. Funogas - https://survivalblog.com/2020/09/29/pv-solar-panels-can-pay-st-funogas/

-----​

Using Grid-Tied PV Panels as a Starter System – Part 1, by St. Funogas - https://survivalblog.com/2022/09/10/using-grid-tied-pv-panels-starter-system-part-1-st-funogas/

Using Grid-Tied PV Panels as a Starter System – Part 2, by St. Funogas - https://survivalblog.com/2022/09/11/using-grid-tied-pv-panels-starter-system-part-2-st-funogas/

-----

A Prepper’s Primer on Renewable Energy – Part 1, by Kevin R. - https://survivalblog.com/2020/04/21/preppers-primer-renewable-energy-part-1-kevin-r/

A Prepper’s Primer on Renewable Energy – Part 1, by Kevin R. - https://survivalblog.com/2020/04/22/preppers-primer-renewable-energy-part-2-kevin-r/

-----

Utilities Costs at a Remote, Off-Grid Home, by Mrs. Alaska - https://survivalblog.com/2023/08/31/utilities-costs-remote-off-grid-home-mrs-alaska/

 
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There are THREE ways to get solar panels installed these days:

1. You allow a solar energy company to "lease" your rooftop. They install the system. They pay the cost. They maintain it. YOU contract to buy electricity at a set rate over X number of years until the system is totally depreciated (last time I looked, it was 20 years). At the end of 20 years, they are supposed to remove the system, but you can purchase the system (which now produces about HALF the amount of electricity it did when new) at a drastically discounted rate. When the street power goes out, you have no electricity. Because you don't "own" the system, you are not allowed to install an inverter or batteries to rectify that problem so long as they own it. Even at "half power", because you have the rooftop mounts and the wires run inside your house, its a lot cheaper for you to replace dying solar panels as they wear out a few at a time and keep it going in perpetuity.

2. You buy an off-grid system on your own, plus your own batteries, inverters, and power box. There are some tax credits you are able to reap, but it is still very expensive. But you own the system. You maintain it. You need to have an electrician wire it up properly inside your house so you don't accidentally electrocute a line-man when the power goes out and they go to maintain the wires and oops! You zap them.

3. You arrange a "lease-to-own" system where you allow the same people who are selling lease-top systems to install it, but you arrange to buy out the system after a few years so you can take advantage of the extra tax credits they get, but you'll get off-grid quicker then if you sit there, wishfully thinking, "I wish I had a spare $30,000 to buy an off-grid system."

Anyways, here are some excellent articles that were posted on Survival Blog by members who are experimenting with solar. If you're not familiar with SurvivalBlog, its run by James Wesley Rawles, the author of "Patriots", and one of the "grandfathers" of the preparedness movement. These articles are written by hard-core preppers who have lived the lifestyle and done the thing for decades, with a heavy emphasis on D.I.Y. The three articles by St. Funogas are written by a dedicated prepper in a situation similar to a lot of us, in that we WANT to go solar and are willing to invest a bit every year to go off-grid, but don't have a huge chunk of cash up-front.

EDIT: Added one more article at the end of this where somebody explains their cost for their 100% off-grid home ... is interesting to read detailed numbers:

PV Solar Panels Can Pay For Themselves, by St. Funogas - https://survivalblog.com/2020/09/29/pv-solar-panels-can-pay-st-funogas/

-----​

Using Grid-Tied PV Panels as a Starter System – Part 1, by St. Funogas - https://survivalblog.com/2022/09/10/using-grid-tied-pv-panels-starter-system-part-1-st-funogas/

Using Grid-Tied PV Panels as a Starter System – Part 2, by St. Funogas - https://survivalblog.com/2022/09/11/using-grid-tied-pv-panels-starter-system-part-2-st-funogas/

-----

A Prepper’s Primer on Renewable Energy – Part 1, by Kevin R. - https://survivalblog.com/2020/04/21/preppers-primer-renewable-energy-part-1-kevin-r/

A Prepper’s Primer on Renewable Energy – Part 1, by Kevin R. - https://survivalblog.com/2020/04/22/preppers-primer-renewable-energy-part-2-kevin-r/

-----

Utilities Costs at a Remote, Off-Grid Home, by Mrs. Alaska - https://survivalblog.com/2023/08/31/utilities-costs-remote-off-grid-home-mrs-alaska/

yes that where i was commenting on my post #8 , if grid goes down the solar has to have an automatic disconnect thats all part of NEC ( national electric codes ) codes here in the USA regardless of the state only way to get around it is if you are totally off grid. and dont forget if you ever go off grid you need to size system to worse case scenario aka winter when sun is at the lowest point on horizon so the least amount of power produced
 
Thank you all for your comments. I know nothing about electricity. We are here in MT and my local electric company tells me to just "go ahead and do your thing--we don't bill and don't credit". That doesn't make sense to me, but we are so far away it might be easier for them to get rid of us ! ? My local farm supply offers free standing panels and batteries for running electric fences. I have a beautiful open area that has a direct south (and north) facing exposure. It is clear all year around, although the sun does rotate behind some trees around 3:00PM. My question is how far away can it be from the cabin? The cabin faces west with much shorter clear sun exposure time. Question: can I run a large enough system in the sunny spot to feed into an auxiliary system closer to the cabin? Can I put a second battery closer to the cabin? What would be the maximum distance between source and cabin? DH is a fine architect and hates this old cabin !! He wants to tear it down, but I don't want to load up the land with bank mortgages! Thanks for your thoughts--please keep the info simple for the simple minded ! :)
as for a secondary battery in line to house that makes no help to the losses at all you best is batteries all in one spot and remember one thing the longer the run of wire the more current loss so you have to go to a larger gauge wire ( not aluminum ) stay with copper wire less loss of current, and this is also why power transmission is AC current not DC there is less current loss in ac and why the Current wars so to speak between Edison and Tesla back in late 1800's , and you are transmitting dc current from the solar cells so already at disadvantage for wire size and sadly you need to gauge wire on a number of factors based on voltage from panels , amperage , distance and max exceptable loss of current.

lets assume you have a standard 100 watt panel with 72 cells in it and produces it, specs of 100 watt+ / 33 volts ( VOC ) / aprox 3 amps in output . 33 volt would drop to around 18v to 19 volt under load or even less , For ease of figuring we will take a middle line of 24 volt is the number we will use for current loss figures. assume you want to stay with in an are 3% or less power loss through the wire to the cabin 150 feet away you would need 9 gauge wire; if the array was only 75 feet away you would only need 12 gauge wire. 25 feet away the gauge with drops to 16 or 17 gauge wire BUT increase the number of panels in series or parallel and it change the whole mix; 75 feet away add a second panel still the 33.3 VOC 24 v loaded but now putting out 6 amp the wire size jumps for a 12 gauge up to a larger 9 gauge . but move those 2 panels out to 150 feet away and the wire size is now 6 gauge ( about the size of an average large battery cable on a car )
 
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One thing bothers me Alpenrose the comment from the power company of do what you want, allow me to clarify one thing most of these fly by night solar panel sellers do not tell people these are USA rules and laws but many countries globally have adopted them:

If the building you are supplying power to is in USA and connected to the grid you cannot install without what is by some called a dead man circuit it cuts off you invertor and shut done your power if the gird goes down. additionally almost ever country has the same law and rules in place for lineman workers protection. So NO you cannot just slap a system in that the feeds the same power circuits connected to the grid that's the law for worker safety "codes - NEC 690.12 RAPID SHUT DOWN and NFPA 70 " it gets complex and if you have PV installed and grid tied and no rapid shut down installed and a lineman gets injured or killed working on lines as a result you are open to major law suit. So who ever the person at the power company also need to be informed of the law. Additionally many states if a building has solar - wind- generator or other power supply source they now mandate a fire safety disconnect on the outside of any building near the electric box or meters often called a birdbox it looks just like a fire pull box. If off grid you have to have high visible bird box and stickers on doors and windows to warn emergency responders such as firemen of possible live power if the building has any source of power other then grin tied that was enacted in 2017

so word of advise when and if someone tells you this get it in writing and signed and witnessed , if something does occur you get sued or arrested you you can then point finger and name them as counter suit for your protection
 
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