Friday, August 16, 2013

On Solar Panels

By request - how well does using solar panels work?

Well, it's hard to say.

I covered my roof with panels under the Ontario MicroFIT (Feed-in Tariff) program that ends next year.  So far I think it's only in Ontario, but some other provinces are thinking about it.  The power I generate from the panels goes directly back to the grid, and I'm paid about 55 cents a kWh and will continue to be for the duration of my 20 year contract.  So far this summer, even with all the rain, it translates to about $300-400/month.  So the cost of the panels is paid for in about 6-8 years.  After that, the money I make in the following 12 years is mine to keep!

It works well for the province in the long run if they can convince people to manage their own energy needs.  They can offer this incentive now, then raise hydro rates to ridiculous degrees, and people with solar panels will be less affected and complain less.  It's similar to RESPs in that you get an incentive to save for university at the beginning (20% from the gov), then the government can reduce what they give to universities, and it all more-or-less evens out.  More or less.  It puts the responsibility on the citizens and takes it away from the government who weren't going to accept it anyway!

Currently I pay about 10 cents a kWh when I use electricity, and that rate will likely go up.  If it hits 55 cents in the next 20 years, then I'm better off using the solar power in my own home to decrease my reliance on the grid.  BUT that means I need one of those backwards spinning meters, that read energy being used AND being generated, which aren't yet allowed in my neck of the woods.  Hopefully they'll be able to implement them before I need them.  As soon as that contract is up, I have to wire it into my home directly.

As long as I'm feeding the grid for cash, it works perfectly.  But putting it into my house for personal use runs into a few problems that I haven't thought much about yet.  There will be time.  The panels use DC, and most homes are wired for AC, so there's that to deal with (I likely didn't say that accurately, and I might have them backwards, but you get the idea).  It means I'd need an inverter box somewhere, OR I could, as a friend suggested, change all my electronics to DC.  I think I'll go for the inverter.

And without a meter that spins backwards, I'd need batteries to store the charge because most energy is generated when you don't need it - in the middle of a sunny day when the lights are off and you're outside or at work.

I can try to answer questions, but that's about all I know!

22 comments:

Owen Gray said...

It sounds as if the scheme works well if you're selling electricity instead of using it for your own needs. If hydro rates go up, will they pay you more for piece of the action?

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Marie Snyder said...

@ Owen - If hydro rates go up I still get 55 cents/kWh. That's steady over the 20 years. That's why I have to feed it into my house for personal use once the sell rate matches the buy rate.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks, Marie. In B.C. the government strong-armed us into switching to these wi-fi "smart" meters. As I understand it, they do in fact spin backwards when you're feeding solar into the grid.

I don't think B.C. Hydro is as generous as the deal you have in Ontario. I will be checking into that. As I mentioned, it's time to put a new roof on the house so this seems the ideal time to consider a solar option.

BTW, what sort of recovery do you generate during the cloudy/snowy winter months?

Thanks for posting this.

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Marie Snyder said...

The BC Greens are proposing a MicroFIT program, but it's only 40 cents for 10 years, then 20 cents for the following ten. But, as far as I can see, the BC smart meters do have "two-way flow" so they'll spin backwards, but the Ontario smart meters don't. They're just able to tell time of use.

I don't know yet how much I'll make in the cloudier months - likely less than summer though. The one thing you might look into is panels that move with the sun. I think they can only do that for the ground-mounted types. But then you'll get maximum efficiency from them.

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William Duke said...
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Tiffany Larsen @ Maggio Roofing said...

Having solar panels installed gives you a lot to think about. There's the initial investment, whether or not you can actually use the power it generates, and in your case, government regulations. Hopefully, they can make the necessary amendments so you can fully take advantage of having them.

albina N muro said...

The power I generate from the panels goes directly back to the grid, and I'm paid about 55 cents a kWh and will continue to be for the duration of my 20 year contract. Sunnyvale solar

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