So You Want to Go Solar?

I was recently talking with a coworker about solar power. He had been telling me for a while about his plans to save up for an RV to convert and run with solar power. The first time he brought it up, he was super excited because he just ordered himself a few groovy panels that only cost a few hundred each. I was always curious about how much it actually costed, and I was impressed, because I thought they were supposed to be super expensive. But low and behold, here were some affordable panels! They were really cool too, because they weren’t like they big heavy and sharp industrial panels you see on buildings. Instead, they were flexible, thin and lightweight.

This is the one he showed me on amazon. I wanted to order one too, but I held off.

For vehicles or vessels, aerodynamics are important. It impacts speed, gas mileage, even placement and accessibility are important. Especially on a vessel, where tripping or stepping on something hard with sharp edges might mean taking a swim.

A solar powered sailboat is definitely appealing to me, it would mean weekend island hopping and coastal cruising with a working fridge, with heat and the capacity to charge electronics all without a noisy generator. Beyond that is the implication of world sailing- of going anywhere with just wind, water and sun.

I didn’t hear much about it for a while, but when I asked a few weeks later he didn’t seem so excited. He said he didn’t realize how expensive the entire installation set up was. The panels themselves weren’t any good without the different inverters and batteries. As it turns out, the panels are the cheap part of the setup- to find decently rated kits online I had to totally change my price filters to include results in the thousands of dollars.

So far, I’ve found a relatively cheap kit that includes almost everything for under a thousand bucks. The real wallet killer are the special lithium batteries, which end up costing as much or more than the kit each.

All in all, I would really only need about four thousand for everything, which isn’t really much compared to the tens of thousands it costs for houses and office buildings- but you’re talking to someone who pays less than four hundred a month for rent, and who’s car isn’t even worth two grand. So it looks like my rainy day fund is now a solar fund for the foreseeable future.