These do-it-yourself solar panels pay for themselves (and can be used by renters)
Alphr Kickstarter of the week: Legion Solar 2
Solar panels are great. Not only do you save money on your electricity bills by harnessing the sun’s own rays to power your house, they come bundled with warm and fuzzy feelings that only come with helping the planet. On the flip side: solar panels are prohibitively expensive, and now the government has cut subsidies, it’s much harder to justify the cost.
That’s where Legion Solar 2 comes in.
What is Legion Solar 2?
DIY electricity isn’t a phrase that inspires a great deal of confidence, but PLX Devices – the company behind Legion Solar 2 – believe it should. The company is selling 100-watt solar panels that can be installed in minutes, and instantly convert the sun’s rays into offsetting your electricity bills. They support both 110VAC and 230VAC, making them compatible with international standards.
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“Legion Solar 2 is do-it-yourself solar that installs in minutes, delivers instant results, pays for itself three times faster than traditional systems,” PLX Devices’ product and business manager Ivana Trajanovska explains via email.
100 watts may sound a little bit reedy, but it’s enough to offset a TV and some electronic devices, according to PLX. The real beauty of the system, however, is that you can daisy-chain multiple panels together as and when you want, increasing your capacity 100 watts at a time, up to a maximum capacity of 12.8kW.
By cutting out the various solar middlemen, PLX Devices aims to provide solar energy to the public at a price that’s considerably more affordable than going via energy companies. Trajanovska uses Dell as a comparison: “Dell’s direct model to sell computers directly to the consumer eliminates third-party dealer, markups, middlemen, and creates an ultra lean and streamlined supply chain. As a result, any unnecessary costs that customers would incur are eliminated. We have done the same with Legion Solar.”
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As a result, the company reckons you’ll pay off the initial outlay in record time. “Our 2 kW system saves us about $38 per month in electricity,” says Trajanovska. “We’ll pay off the cost of the hardware in less than three years. That’s three times faster than other contractor installed systems.”
This is actually the second version of Legion Solar, as the name suggests. It improves on the first by adding SolarBuilder (a tool to plan and grow your solar array), RafterFinder (a tool to help with roof installation) and SolarRegulator (enabling solar for single direction metres, to stop energy going back to the grid). The planned third iteration will allow for energy storage as well, which will be a big step forward.
Why should I care?
If you care about the future of the planet, but also about not spending all your savings, this is for you. Because it doesn’t necessarily require a roof installation, it’s also handy for renters: as long as the panels see some sunlight, they’ll generate electricity.
How much and when would I get it?
Although this is cheaper than conventional solar panels, it’s still not pocket money. Currently, a pledge of $299 (~£220) will get you a Legion Solar starter set – which is a 100W panel, a micro inverter, a solar hub and wiring. If 100 watts doesn’t sound like enough for you, you can add in extra sets, starting at $99 for an extra 100. Though of course, if you’re in the UK, you’ll have to factor in international shipping.
PLX Devices is looking at a shipping date of March 2018 for deliveries. So you’re stuck paying full price for your energy for a few months yet.
Is there anything else like Legion Solar 2 out there?
Well, yes: solar panels. But they’re expensive and distinctly not designed to be DIY, generally speaking. The fact that this can be daisy-chained is also pretty unusual, as far as I can tell.
How risky is backing Legion Solar 2?
As ever with crowdfunding, there is no such thing as a guaranteed product. The end result may not be what’s promised, might never see the light of day, or might disappoint in another way. Only pay what you can afford to lose.
That said, Legion Solar 2 looks about as safe as a Kickstarter can be – largely because the original Legion Solar is already in the gardens and on the roofs of backers. This isn’t a fly-by-night operation looking to take the money and run. Indeed, a look at their Kickstarter history shows a number of creations outside of solar energy: Luxor is “the flashlight perfected,” while Yaba is a portable speaker and guitar amp.
The heavy lifting has already been done – Trajanovska explains that the “rigorous field testing of the MicroInverters” was particularly challenging. While nothing is 100% guaranteed in crowdfunding, this is a reasonably safe bet.
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