We all recognize the importance of the sun and solar energy in our everyday lives. We need it to warm our planet, to grow our food, and to lighten our mood. And while other resources face shortages and increasing prices, we can rely on solar energy to always be available and free to those who need it—mankind.
What is solar power?
Solar power uses the sun’s rays to generate heat or electricity. As the most plentiful and cleanest renewable energy source available, innovative manufacturers continue to introduce methods of harnessing this free power through the use of photovoltaic cells, photovoltaic glass, heat pumps and passive solar alternatives.
How does solar energy work?
Solar systems are broken down into two categories: Active and passive.
Both types can be used in residential applications and use radiation from the sun to collect, store and distribute heat energy.
Active systems employ mechanical or electrical devices called photovoltaic (PV) cells or panels to convert the natural sunlight to some other usable energy form. Panels can be installed on a roof or as groundmounted solar arrays.
Passive systems don’t require any special equipment; instead, the home is specifically designed with south-facing windows to let in the warm sun’s rays, a thermal mass (such as concrete, stone, brick or tile) to store the heat to use after the sun sets, plus a fan and ventilation system to circulate the air to keep the home at an comfortable temperature in all seasons.
What makes solar power so attractive to homeowners?
Homeowners across Canada are taking advantage of more affordable green energy systems and adding solar panels to their roof. While there is still a significant initial investment for the materials and installation, according to experts in the industry, homeowners can expect to produce 20-50 percent of their yearly hydro needs and save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the system.
There are a couple options available for solar PV system ownership:
- Outright Purchase
A cash purchase means future operating and maintenance costs are the homeowner’s responsibility, but it also provides complete control over the system and peace of mind.
- Lease to Own
This option is generally available through the solar company installing the panels, and some of the responsibility for maintenance falls on them. Most agreements allow an early lease buy-out without penalty.
Financial incentives are offered throughout the country for renewable energy sources to encourage residents to consider going green. Ontario currently offers the three programs listed below in conjunction with the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 (Ontario). Check the Canadian Energy Solar Programs chart or contact your local hydro office.
- Micro-FIT Program—Eligible homeowners and residents receive a guaranteed price for small renewable projects of 10 kW or less. This is paid over a 20-year period and applies to all the electricity delivered to Ontario’s grid.
- FIT Program (Feed-in Tariff Program)—Similar to the Micro-Fit Program, but for solar projects generating between 10 kW and 500 kW of power. It is also guarantees the price paid for electricity sent to the power grid over 20 years.
- Net Metering—Hydro One offers Ontario residents a program geared toward reducing their hydro bills in return for excess electricity generated by renewable sources. This trade applies to systems 500 kW or less and can be carried forward for 11 months to offset electricity costs.
Common Misconceptions About Solar Power
Although the solar industry has grown slower than Canadian initiatives had expected over the last decade, the country has become a world leader—attracting over a $1 billion in investments and generating 10,000 jobs annually.
If you’ve considered taking a step toward reducing greenhouse gases, lowering your carbon footprint, and saving on energy bills, but have been concerned about any of these misconceptions, now here’s your chance to sort through what’s true and what’s false:
This is what the U.S Department of Energy SunShot Initiative has to say:
- You Must Own a House to Go Solar — False
All types of residences can benefit from going solar. For those who live in apartments, high-rise condos or even rent a home, Community Solar programs have been established. Residents share the cost of a single solar array and any return for excess hydro power generated.
- Solar Panels Are Extremely Expensive — False
To the contrary, worldwide, solar costs have been consistently falling since 2009. Expert analysts from Deutsche Bank predict a “40 percent cut in solar costs by the end of 2017,” making it more affordable for everyone. Of course, not everyone is required to buy their solar systems with cash. With a number of financing and lease options available plus third-party programs that allow you to purchase back the power you’ve generated at a significant savings, reaching grid parity is closer than you think.
- You Can’t Save Money By Installing Solar — False
As you’ve read in this article, there are many ways to save by adding this renewable energy source to your home. How much will be dependent on much electricity you use, how big your solar system is, and how much power you can produce. Every time you get an increase to your hydro bill, it makes solar energy an even better money-saving option.
- Your Home’s Value Will Suffer — False
While this may have been an issue in the past, today’s buyers, especially Millennials, recognize the positive impact clean energy has on the environment and their wallet and are embracing homes that have adopted this technology.
- Solar Energy Doesn’t Work in All Climates — False
Northern climates experiencing winter snowfall and cold temperatures can still generate sufficient electricity through solar systems. Panel manufacturers utilize data from Regional Test Centers to ensure optimum performance in all climates and weather conditions.
So now, here’s what you’ve been waiting for:
7 Unbeatable Reasons to Go Solar
As you’ve read throughout this article, homeowners are motivated to go solar for many different reasons—economic, environmental and personal. Here are the top seven reasons for taking the plunge and investing in solar:
#1 Drastically cut or do away with your hydro bills
If you’re like most homeowners, electricity costs take a big bite out of your monthly budget. By installing a solar system, you’ll be able to take advantage of free power over the lifetime of the system. You’ll be able to save money from the electricity you generate, protect yourself from rising energy costs and possibly get off the grid entirely.
#2 Increase your property value while earning a big ROI
An investment in solar panels is equivalent to other popular reno projects like upgraded kitchens and finished basements. More and more buyers are recognizing the benefits to associated with solar systems and are willing to pay a premium for them. This means a faster sale at a higher price and a larger return on investment.
#3 Reduce your carbon footprint
Solar power is among the cleanest of all energy sources and even a small reduction in traditional fossil fuel use can lower greenhouse gas output and pollution. While it may not seem as if one home can contribute much, on average, you’ll be able to eliminate three to four tons of carbon emissions annually. This is like planting over 100 trees each year. Now, that’s a big impact!
#4 Little upkeep
Roof and ground panels require very little maintenance. Seasonal cleaning to remove dust and dirt is optional as rain usually washes anything away that obstructs sunlight from reaching the panels.
#5 Help your local economy
Solar job opportunities across Canada have been consistently growing at a record pace, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Solar-related jobs are often higher paying positions due to their technological requirements, so purchasing and installing a system for your home will help your own local economy grow.
#6 Government incentives
Nationwide, the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) has established incentives for homeowners to install solar panel systems. Micro-FIT and FIT programs offering a guaranteed rate for renewable energy produced, a Net-Metering program designed to offset a homeowner’s hydro bills, and loan programs created to help with the purchase and installation of equipment are all great examples of Canada’s commitment to renewable energy. Now is the perfect time to “go solar.”
#7 Green energy promotion and independence
Become an ambassador for green energy by promoting clean, solar power in your community. Every home that utilizes technology to generate electricity from the sun contributes toward Canada’s goal to become energy independent. You’ll save money and resources and your country will be less affected by global energy price fluctuations. A win-win for everyone.
Get started now…
What are you waiting for? With so many positive reasons for going solar available, it’s the perfect opportunity to move forward with your green reno project.
For more information, visit CanSIA (Canadian Solar Industries Association), “Going Solar: A Guide for Consumers.” You’ll be glad you did.