Ok, so this article isn't actually going to be THAT comprehensive, but I wanted to share a few thoughts.
I work in an office environment and have 2 other prepper minded folks that are just steps away from my office door. The other day we were talking about solar power and one of them commented that it was just so expensive to do anything with solar, that they were just focusing on other preps.
I told him that I disagreed and I shared with him how solar is fitting into my plans.
I have a very simple setup that consists of 45 watts of solar panels, 4 deep cycle batteries, a 1500 watt inverter and a charge controller (to be expanded as $$ allows). This simple setup allows me at least a modicum of electrical availability and expands my abilities exponentially. Here are a few examples of the avenue's that are open to me just because of this fairly small outlay in cash.
Before I begin, we have to remember what we are prepping for. Sure something like this might cost $400 now and is not nearly as glamorous as a new Eotech, but some of the things that the simple setup affords me in a potential WROL scenario will be worth substantially more.
First off, I can charge 12 volt batteries. Sure it takes a while, but I can do it. Certainly not as fast as hooking it to a 12 volt charger plugged into the grid, but remember what we are talking about here.
Secondly, I can charge other batteries. I have begun to stock up on an assortment of rechargeable batteries. AAA, AA, C, D, CR123 (for that Eotech), 18650's (for those that don't know what these are, I will be doing a review in a few days). Having a good stock of batteries and the ability to re-charge them will be a godsend during grid-down.
In a WROL scenario I certainly will not be advertising that I have flashlights and the ability to power them. But in a dynamic critical incident, it will be a wonderful force multiplier.
Thirdly, I can have artificial light in my house. Sure you can stock up on candles, kerosene and lanterns (which are all good to have in abundance and I do), but at $4/gallon for cheap kerosene, it doesn't take long to really come close to the cost of solar, and the solar will continue to provide its services long after the kerosene is used up.
Fourthly, once things start settling down and if I have survived the initial bump, I can trade recharged batteries for things that I need with the understanding that I get the dead batteries back so the cycle can start over again.
A full scale off-grid whole house solar system might not be in your future, but a small scale solar setup certainly should be.