At Peace Energy Cooperative we spend a lot of time and effort answering questions about solar energy. Most folks are now getting the message that with solar they can generate their own electricity, cutting back or eliminating their electrical bills, but many questions remain.
Solar technology is new to western Canada. In B.C., for instance, there are fewer than 2000 rooftop solar arrays powering homes and businesses. In Japan there are over a million, Australia more than two million, and the U.S. is expected to hit a million this year.
Around the world, some half a million solar panels are installed each and every day, making it the fastest growing and now, the cheapest energy source on Earth.
In Canada, Ontario is leading in solar, now boasting a robust solar industry providing thousands of long-term jobs and some of the largest solar manufacturing facilities in the world. Alberta has just announced it’s first solar incentive program, so they’ll be catching up, but most of the rest of Canada slumbers on.
No so in northeast B.C. Peace Energy Co-op’s “Save with Solar” sessions, hosted in Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Hudson’s Hope this past winter, were always well-attended by keen and interested people with lots of enthusiasm and good questions. Here are some of the most common and a brief answer to each:
HOW DOES GRID-TIE WORK?
When you set up your own solar power system, either on your roof or on a rack in your yard, you become an energy producer, not just a consumer. If you tie your system into the grid, (which, thanks to B.C Hydro, is quick and easy to do) you can store excess solar power you generate as a credit in the grid, then use up that credit later when you need the power.
The solar electricity you generate is used first to power your home or business, then excess is fed into the grid and accumulated as a credit on your account. Up here in northeast B.C. our long summer sunlight hours often create much more power than we can use. The rooftop array on my commercial building in Dawson Creek, for instance, is sized to create enough extra power in the summer to power my building all winter. Thanks to my grid-tied solar power system, I have paid no electrical bills for four consecutive years, replacing regular grid power with my own super-green solar energy. Sweet.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
Solar power systems can be sized to meet any budget, from small starter systems for less than $5,000 to massive systems to power a whole farm and shop for $50,000 and up. But solar is a long-term, low maintenance “asset” that increases the value of your home or business, while providing a “return” on that investment every day as reduced electrical bills.
Remember, most solar equipment now comes with 12 to 25 year warranties. Completely solid state, no moving parts. We’re talking very low maintenance, very long life, and very reliable, mature technology.
A solar power system on your property increases the value of your property, and produces power that will always be cheaper than grid power, especially since we know that the price for grid power is always going up, up, up, while the cost of your own solar power is always the same, essentially free.
Businesses also have an excellent federal tax incentive available when they go solar, allowing them to write off the cost of their solar system in as little as four years. Good deal for businesses, farms or ranches.
DO I NEED BATTERIES?
If you are grid-tied, no batteries required. The grid becomes your “battery.” However, new and amazing “smart” lithium batteries are now entering the market (think Tesla’s Power Wall), which will give you more independence, efficiency and energy security, but are still expensive and a bit hard to get.
We recommend going ahead with you solar array now, and adding batteries (if you choose to) in 2 or 3 years when prices are down and availability up.
Solar is growing gang busters around the world for one big reason: it makes financial sense. Check it out.