OK, not really. There are a lot of factors that go into the cost of a solar panel, and so the final cost you pay can vary dramatically.
When the question “how much does a solar panel cost” gets asked, we have found that really people want to know how much it is going to cost them to have solar panels installed at their home or business. In order to install a good quality, operational solar system there are lots of things to consider. However, in order to break this very basic costing down on a panel level, we have provided some examples below.
First, there is the wholesale price. This is the price that your installer can buy from a company who sells the panels in bulk, or from the manufacturer themselves. This varies depending on stock levels, installer-supplier relations, and the exchange rate (as most international trade is done in USD).
Second, there is the type of the panel. An entry-level made-in-China dead-in-three-years panel will be a lot cheaper than a Korean-made high-technology panel (e.g. Q CELLS) that will easily last a decade. Furthermore, a 200W panel will usually be a lot cheaper than a 400W one! This is why systems are often thought about in dollars-per-watt ($/W) – a 6kW system at $1/W would cost $6000, regardless if the system used 30x 200W panels or 15x 400W panels.
Third, there is the difference between the cost of 20 solar panels, and 20 solar panels installed with all the required “balance of system” – such as the inverter, the switches, the cables, etc. The balance of system is usually higher than the cost of the actual panels.
Fourth, there is the cost you pay. There are a bunch of government incentives and rebates that can take up to a third off the price you pay! And there are also finance deals/payment plans, especially “no interest” ones, which can add up to a third extra (as the cost of interest is added upfront).
Yes, I’m well aware I haven’t answered the “what is the cost of a solar panel?” question. If you were looking for definite answer, you’ll hopefully realise by now that there isn’t one. However, I can give you some guidance: take ~$1/W as a guideline for an installed solar system. That is, $6600 for a 6.6kW, $7800 for a 7.8kW, etc.
If it is much less than this, be very sure to triple-check everything – What brand are the panels? How reliable are they? What is their warranty? Same for the inverter. How long has the company been installing solar? How likely are they to be around in 10 years? Generally, when you see systems for $0.50/W, expect them to only last a couple years and to have no aftersales support – honestly, the panel itself should cost at least $0.50/W, let alone the install and balance of system.
Alternatively, for $1.50/W you can get an excellent system from a reliable company using top products. This will last for many years – and although it’s a higher initial cost, the long-term benefit will be greater. Spend a cent to save a dollar, as the saying goes.