Encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy on Vancouver Island

Learn About Solar Energy



What Does Solar Bring To Your Mind?

Likely solar electricity! This technology is the most popular, but is not the only one. Solar hot water systems are also widely deployed, and particularly in warmer climates are inexpensive and effective. Do-it-yourself systems can cost less than $1,000!

Solar PV Energy Systems

Solar electricity systems directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity – to learn more about this go to PVEducation.org. They need to have an unshaded southern exposure to work efficiently.  Solar PV (photo voltaic) modules are usually located on roof-tops, but can be added to walls (providing summer shading to windows, for example) and ground-mounted (where they are somewhat more efficient due to the ground’s cooling influence).

Cost Of Solar PV Power On Vancouver Island

What does a Solar PV (photo-voltaic) system cost?  Solar PV equipment has dramatically dropped in price over the last five years, resulting in a long term cost of electricity that is equal to or better than BC Hydro’s Step 2 residential rate!  BC homeowners will pay an average of $2.65 per watt (2019 Energy Hub data) for a grid-tied system fully installed by a contractor.  Pricing can be lower for folks in urban areas.  Considering the typical homeowner installs systems between 4,000 watts (4 kW) and 10,000 watts (10 kW) in capacity, solar PV system design, supply and installation costs can vary from $10,600 to $26,500.  Commercial systems can cost $40,000 or more.  We recommend that owners get their installation vendor to retain a professional engineer to complete a structural check of their roof to ensure it has adequate capacity to support the solar PV system. While solar PV systems don’t add much weight, the extra cost of the structural check (around $1,500 +/- for a home and $3,000 +/- for a commercial building) is easily recovered through reduced power costs over the lifetime of the system and provides good peace of mind.

How big a solar PV system can I connect to my home?  This depends on the amount of roof space you have as well as the size of your electrical service panel.  Modern solar PV modules generate about 190 watts per square meter of area.  If you have a 200 amp electrical service panel, you should be able to install a solar PV system of around 10 kW in size.

Can I stop paying BC Hydro bills?  This is possible if you heat with natural gas or wood, or live in a very highly efficient home (called “net zero homes”). Keep in mind that it is far less expensive to increase your home’s energy efficiency than it is to add solar power, so it’s best to start there.

To avoid expensive battery storage, homes or businesses installing solar power can use BC Hydro as a huge capacitor, selling power to the utility in the summer months and buying it back in the winter. This is far cheaper than is storing power in batteries. Better environmentally, too! This is known as a “grid-tied” solar system.

  How To Complete A Solar PV Assessment

The most important measurement you need to consider if contemplating installing a solar PV system is the long term cost per kilowatt-hour ($/kWh), also known as the levelized cost of energy (LCOE).  To calculate this, you will need to know the system cost (from a solar PV vendor quote or using the rule of thumb figure above) as well as the expected average annual electricity generation in kilowatt-hours.  Determining the average annual generation depends on a number of factors, such as shading, which are outlined in our Small Solar PV System Installation Specification.  Solar PV vendors can estimate your expected average annual generation or you can use the popular and simple online tool PV Watts to complete your own estimate.  Once you determine the LCOE for your concept solar PV system, compare it to BC Hydro’s projected electricity cost under the potential rate increase scenarios listed under our Reasons To Generate Your Own Clean Electricity page.  This will help you decide if going solar PV makes sense in your particular situation.

  Solar PV Tips

For a summary of some of the important pitfalls of solar PV to avoid, have a look at this presentation from ESVI’s 2018 AGM and this presentation from the Nanaimo Old City Association 2018 AGM.

Going with a grid-tied solar PV system?  You’ll need to learn all about BC Hydro’s Net Metering Program.

Ready to proceed with getting a solar PV system installed? Download our Solar PV Installation Checklist and get a copy of ESVI’s Small Solar PV System Installation Specification.

To find out which solar module manufacturers are top rated for reliability, check out this report by PVEL/DNV-GL.

  Other Solar Energy Technology

Solar Hot Water

Solar Hot Water

There are other types of solar energy! While solar hot-water systems are now more expensive than PV systems in areas prone to winter-time freezing, summer systems are inexpensive and are ideal for cottages and where homeowners are prepared to shut them down in the fall and turn them back on in the spring. Such systems can provide close to half of a home’s hot water needs! Given that heating hot water accounts for roughly a quarter of a typical home’s energy requirements such a saving can easily be greater than most monetary investments (RRSP’s, for example).

Now there are solar heat pump systems. These create heat for domestic hot water and space heating all year by capturing heat from the sun, the wind, and the rain. While we are unaware of any Vancouver Island area solar heat pump systems that are successfully operating, this technology may have potential going forward.

There is no doubt that fossil fuels are soon to begin being phased out in favour of solar and other renewable energy technologies. Certainly clean, renewable energy is expanding world-wide at a phenomenal rate, despite the huge government subsidies for dirty fossil fuels.

Want to embrace these changes? Click to see our membership brochure in PDF format or join us through this on-line form.

Looking for mid-Vancouver-Island vendors to assist with your solar PV installation?  Click here for our latest supplier/installer list!

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