Image via: remintola on Flickr.com
We've mentioned the Akeena Solar Andalay PV (photovoltaic) panel previously for its near plug and play installation format. With almost all of the pieces integrated, installers simply install the base into the roof, set the panels down, plug them together and the rooftop installation is done. Now, for the first time, Lowe's sells all the pieces to these systems so Do-It Yourselfers across California can purchase their own Andalay panels and install them one panel at a time as funds (or free time) are available.21 Lowe's shops across California now carry Anadalay PV panels and Lowe's plans to expand their Energy Centers throughout the US and Canada in 2010. When you go to Lowe's Energy Center now, there is an electronic kiosk that can help you get started, by estimating your home's solar and wind potential as well as helping you design and size your system. They also sell products to help you measure your energy use and reduce consumption first before purchasing a PV system.
The Andalay panels in particular are easier for homeowners to install because almost all of the parts and pieces are integrated into the panels themselves. There is an 80 percent reduction in parts on these panels as compared with other solar panels. In addition, Andalay states that you can add panels to your system over time as your needs increase thanks to the individual inverters on each panel that convert energy to AC. This means that you don't have to worry about resizing your inverter as your system size changes. But, be aware that changing your system size you run the risk of burning up your wires or overloading your circuit breaker so please contact an electrician or solar company prior to doing this.
According Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Akeena Solar,
"The PC revolution in the computer industry occurred when new technology made PCs easy to use and affordable. Likewise, with panels becoming plug-and-play appliances, the solar revolution has started. The availability of solar panels in Lowe's stores makes it easy for homeowners to go solar and is a big step toward getting solar on every sunny rooftop."
If you're interested in the Do It Yourself angle of solar installation, you can also find packaged kits from many solar retailers and even solar installation companies. Systems are packaged with a wattage output in mind. All you need to know is if you have the appropriate roof space available, and what size system you need (based on your average utility bill) and you can purchase all the parts - including wiring, panels and racking - and get going yourself on your own rooftop PV system.
Don't forget, unless you are an electrician or have previous electrical experience, you will still need an electrician to install the inverter, the disconnects and to tie the system into your main service, or into your battery backup system.
The Andalay panels retail for $893 USD each before rebates and tax returns. All of the racking and materials will be sold on the aisles next to the solar panels at Lowes.