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 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) electric panels have dramatically dropped in price, now costing about the same as BC Hydro’s Step 2 residential rate! PV panels 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 Power On Vancouver Island

What does a PV (photo-voltaic) system cost? A bare minimum investment is $5,000, and can cost $50,000 for a large residential or small commercial system. Most homeowners will pay about $3 per watt (in 2017; less if volunteer time is included). Consider spending about $15,000 for a reasonable sized system. 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.

The most important measurement you need to consider if contemplating installing a solar PV system is the long term cost per kilowatt-hour ($/kWh).  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.  For a summary of some of the important pitfalls of solar PV to avoid, have a look at this presentation from our 2018 AGM.

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! 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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