Solar Made Easy

Solar systems have become a tried and tested form of energy production in many areas around the globe, including the province of Ontario. With the passing of the Green Energy Act, in 2009 Ontario became one of the most attractive jurisdictions in North America for individual home owners, businesses and co-op’s to start producing their own clean energy and making a difference for the environment and the fight against air pollution and climate change.

There are two common technologies that are available for harnessing the sun’s energy. They are PV (photovoltaic) which produces electricity and solar thermal which heats water or air. Both systems consist of solar panels which are mounted on the roof of homes and businesses or ground mounted on poles. More information on Photovoltaics can be found here. More information on Solar Thermal can be found here.

The Ontario government, through the Green Energy Act has created the FIT and microFIT programs which pay Ontario green energy producers, including homeowners, a premium for the electricity they produce. This makes owning a solar PV system not only affordable, but has a return on investment better than a standard GIC. The contracts signed with the government are for a 20 year period, guaranteeing the value of your solar investment. The FIT and microFIT programs are scheduled to phase out in 2017. The MicroFIT program remains the most lucrative solar investment for homeowners. A microFIT system installed on a roof with good solar exposure can pay for itself in 10 years. A good system will give you an annual return of 4% to 6% and the income is guaranteed for 20 years.

Help keep this segment up to date! CREW is interested in tracking PV and/or solar thermal installations within the region; please email info@crewzone.ca with your Waterloo region solar project stats or stories.

Costs & Incentives

If you’re like most of the members of CREW, then one of the only things preventing you from having your own renewable energy system is money. In that case there’s some good news. Below is a summary of some of the financial incentives available that could help you finance your project:

Net Metering

Ontario’s net metering regulation allows you to offset your hydro bill by consuming solar energy you produce and getting credit for excess generation. Each Hydro Company handles the Net Metering billing slightly differently. The best way to determine your potential savings is to contact one of our prefered solar installers. Be prepared to supply them with 12 months of your hydro bills so they can determine your current electricity consumption and potential savings. If they do not ask you for 12 month of hydro bills they are not doing an adequate analysis.

Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT and microFIT) Program

If you are interested in the microFIT or FIT program don’t wait, these programs are only expected to be offered until the end of 2017. Both microFIT and FIT programs involve installing a solar array and selling all the power generated to the grid at a fixed rate, guaranteed for 20 years. MicroFIT is for Solar Installations <10kW and is what most homeowners would be interested in. FIT is for those installations <10kW and <500kW. The rates paid on FIT systems is significantly lower than microFIT systems. Both programs offer a fixed rate on every kWh produced for 20 years

MicroFIT

The January 2017 microFIT tariffs can be found here. These rates are updated frequently check with your solar installer to make sure they are current. The first step in the microFIT program is to make sure you are eligible to connect a microFIT system. Do not pay your installer a cent until they have determined if you are eligible. They should be happy to help you with this with no obligation to buy a system from them. A microFIT system installed on a roof that is great for solar exposure should pay for itself in 10 years or less and offer an annual rate of return of 4% to 6%. A typical 10kW microFIt system should generate $2800 per year. These systems are effectively tax free since you get the HST back that you paid on the system. Installers on our prefered solar installer list can help you with the HST process.

FIT

Currently the FIT application window is closed. Another FIT program is expected to open in the future.

Capital Cost Allowances

Corporations who install renewable energy systems can write-off the purchase value (capital cost) of their systems as a (Federal) income tax deductible expense taken against the income they receive from generated electricity. For more information, ask your accountant about class 43.2 and class 43.3 of the Federal Income Tax Act. Typically 50% of the project cost can be written off in the first year and 25% each year after that.

Loans

If you want to finance your project the best way is to ask your bank about a home equity line of credit. A microFIT system installed on a favourable roof should pay down a home equity line of credit loan for the system in about 10 years.

Solar FAQ

What is PV?
“PV” stands for “photovoltaic”, which means electricity (voltaic) from light (photo). PV panels come in various shapes, sizes, and types, but all are based on technology that converts light energy into electricity.

How much electricity will be produced by an average PV system?
This is dependant on several variables. An average system in our region may generate 900 kWh per installed kW annually, a really good system may generate 1200 kWh per installed kW annually.

What are the benefits for the environment?
An average 3kW PV system will reduce a home’s carbon footprint by 3.5 tons per year for the 35-40 year lifespan of the solar panels.

How much does a PV system cost?
The costs are influenced by many factors. A 10 kW grid tied solar system on a simple roof should cost about $25000 to $27000.

How much roof space is required?
Approximately 75 square feet is needed for a 1kW installation.

What if my roof does not face directly south?
A roof orientation from south-east to south-west will not see a significant decline in solar electricity production (approx. 5%). There will be more of a reduction in power generation for east and west orientations (approx. 25%).

What are the maintenance requirements?
There is almost no maintenance required for a rooftop PV solar system. Rain will keep the panels clean and there are no moving parts to break down. Snow in the winter will melt faster on solar panels than on most roofs, and will have a limited effect in any case (most of the electricity generated is in the longer summer days). Your installer should monitor your system for you and know if there is problem before you do. Our prefered solar installers can help you with maintenance on an existing system.

Solar Hot Water FAQ

What is solar thermal?
“Thermal” means heat. Solar thermal panels come in many shapes, sizes, and types, but all use sunlight to capture heat that may be used inside a building to heat water or air.

How much hot water will be produced by a solar water heater?
During the summer months the system will be able to supply between 85% and 100% of your hot water needs and in the winter around 35%. For the entire year an average of 60% of your hot water requirements can be delivered by a solar water heating system.

What water temperatures can be expected?
The solar system will heat cold water to standard water heater temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius (120F) or higher.

What are the benefits for the environment?
Heating water accounts for 25% of the average home’s energy use and a solar water heater can reduce this by more the half resulting in significant reductions in greenhouse gases and air pollution.

How much does a solar hot water system cost?
The price for a standard two panel solar water heater ranges from approximately $5500 to $7500.

How much roof space is required?
The standard systems offered consist of two 4′ x 8′ panels (65 square feet).

Is there a back up heat source in case the solar water heater is not producing enough hot water?
Your existing electric or gas water heater will be used as an auxiliary heat source to supplement the solar system when needed.

CREW Preferred Solar Installers List

CompanyWebsiteContactEmailPhoneLocationTechnology
Guelph Solarguelphsolar.netSteve Dyckinfo@guelphsolar.net519-994-4749GuelphPV, Solar Thermal, Electrical, Heat Pumps, Lighting
Vigor Clean Techvigorcleantech.comJerry Ennsjenns@vigorcleantech.com519-279-4630PetersburgPV,Wind
Fritz Constructionfritzall.comMurray Loganmurray@faromor.com800-960-4002ShakespearePV,Wind
Green & Cleangreennclean.caMark McNallymark@greenandcleandirect.ca519-763-795GuelphPV, Wind, Lighting
Infinitum Energyinfinitumenergy.caSaul Peraltakurt@infinitumenergy.ca888-786-3814KitchenerPV, Solar Thermal, Lighting
Merlyn Powermerlynpower.caJohn Jardinejohn@merlynpower.ca519-744-2217KitchenerPV, Solar Thermal
Saturn Power/Arcadian Projectsarcadianprojects.caJeff Vidmarjeffvidmar@saturnpower.ca519-804-9163New HamburgPV,Wind
Solar Dynamicssolardynamics.caDavid Blakedavid@solardynamics.ca519-745-3426KitchenerPV
Waterloo Energy Productswaterlooenergy.comJason Griebjgrieb@agts.ca519-648-9977MaryhillPV, Solar Thermal, Geothermal, Lighting
Free Breezefreebreeze.comINFO@FREEBREEZE.COM519-885-4311ListowelWind

Looking for more information?

Sign up for a CREW membership and come out to our meetings to ask your questions directly from solar pioneers and industry experts. Other sites you might want to check out are:

  • Canadian Solar Industries Association
  • OPA FIT website
  • Check the CREW website regularly for all related news and developments in conservation and renewable energy as we work hard to help the Region of Waterloo and surrounding area GO GREEN.
  • Be sure to check out the News and Event listings.