Photovoltaic System Types
How do grid-tied systems work?
- Solar panels are typically installed on the roof of the home and/or garage. These photovoltaic (PV) solar cells convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power.
- The inverter(s) converts DC electricity from the solar array to the AC electricity found in the building.
- The inverter feeds electricity into the electrical distribution system (ie. electrical panel).
- The bi-directional meter (supplied free of charge by the utility) keeps track of both the energy imported from the grid and the energy exported to the grid. Savings and export credits are reflected on your electricity bill.
- If you own an electric car, you can charge it up with solar power generated on your own home.
- Your home remains connected to the utility grid to supply you with electricity when you need more power than your system is producing, such as at night.
Commercial grid tied solar electric systems.
- Photovoltaic (PV) modules convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power.
- The inverter(s) convert DC electricity from the solar array to the AC electricity found in the building.
- The inverter feeds electricity into the electrical distribution system.
- The bidirectional meter (supplied free of charge by the utility) keeps track of both the energy imported from the grid and the energy exported to the grid. Savings and export credits are reflected on your electricity bill.
Are there any government incentives available?
Currently, small Micro Generation producers in Alberta will automatically receive a credit which is equivalent to their current electricity rate, for surplus electricity generated and exported to the grid. For instance, if you are currently paying 8 cents/kWh for your electricity, you will also receive 8 cents/kWh for any excess solar energy that is fed back to the grid from your PV system. The bi-directional meter which is supplied free of charge by your Wire Services Provider keeps track of both the energy imported from the grid and the energy exported to the grid. These meter reads are processed on a monthly basis and any excess solar energy supplied to the grid will show up as a credit on your monthly electricity bill. Terms of reference are defined within the Alberta Micro-generation Regulation. Furthermore, if you decide to sign up as a SPARK Certified Green Generator, you could receive 1.85 ¢/kWh for the renewable energy attributes of your exported energy, in addition to the credit that micro-generators currently receive for the sale of their exported electricity. For more information about the SPARK Green Offset Program and how to sign up as a SPARK Certified Green Generator, please click here.
Alberta Residential and Commercial Solar Program – Please note funding for this program has been discontinued.
Alberta Municipal Solar Program
The Alberta Municipal Solar Program will provide rebates of up to $0.90 per watt to municipalities for installing solar on municipal buildings, such as offices, fire halls, community centers and more. Projects up to 5MW of installed capacity will receive the full AMSP rebate. The rebate provided by the MCCAC will not exceed 30% of eligible expenses. The Alberta Municipal Solar Program started accepting applications on March 1, 2016.
On-Farm Solar Photovoltaics Program – Please note funding for this program is on hold.
The On-Farm Solar Photovoltaics Program provides funding towards solar photovoltaics on Alberta farms. This enables producers to conserve non-renewable fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions, ultimately reducing the environmental footprint of Alberta’s agriculture industry. The Solar Photovoltaics Program addresses two important industry priorities: 1) Improved environmental stewardship. When producers make investments in clean energy and reduced carbon emissions, they are recognized for their commitment to sustainable practices. 2) Improved energy management. Producers who install photovoltaic systems tend to take a renewed interest in their electricity usage; this leads to additional efficiency investments.
Banff Solar PV Incentive Program
The Town of Banff Solar PV Incentive Program is a post-install rebate program, with funding based on the size of the solar system installed. Eligible participants install a solar PV system on their home or business, and then receive a financial rebate from the Town, based on the size of the solar system installed. The Town provides eligible participants with a rebate of $750/kilowatt (kW) of solar capacity installed, to a maximum of 7.5 kW. Click here for more information.
Canmore Solar PV Incentive Program
A limited number of solar incentives of $1,250 are available to residents and businesses to help offset the cost of purchasing and installing a solar electric system in Canmore. Eight incentives are available and drawn by lottery. The application process is closed for 20189 but will resume in 2020. All projects must meet building and electrical safety code requirements, and the minimum installation requirement is a 2.5kW solar electric system. Click here for more information.
Medicine Hat Solar PV Incentive Program
The Solar Electric Incentive Program (the Program) offers rebates to residential utility customers to purchase and install solar PV systems on their homes. The rebate amount is awarded based on the size of the installed system. For more information visit the City of Medicine Hat.
Edmonton Solar PV Incentive Program
The City of Edmonton is currently offering an incentive of $0.40/watt towards the cost of installing a residential system. Click here for more information.
Brazeau County Solar PV Incentive Program
REBATE = $0.90/WATT (UP TO $10,000) Only one application per landowner within the County as a whole. Further applications may be considered in future program initiatives. For residential service, the solar photovoltaic (PV) system must be grid-connected in accordance with Alberta’s Micro-generation Regulation (AR27/2008). The system must not be eligible for the Alberta Municipal Solar Program (AMSP) or the Alberta Indigenous Solar Program. Click here for more information.
Solar for Schools Program
The Solar for Schools (SFS) Program provides financial rebates to Alberta Public School Authorities who install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on existing school facilities or land in their jurisdiction and complete a student education initiative as part of the project. For detailed information on eligibility requirements, available funding, and how to apply, please refer to the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre.
Equs Solar Preferred Supplier Program
Through a Request for Proposals process, EQUS has selected SkyFire Energy as the preferred solar supplier. This is to help easily connect EQUS members who are interested in becoming micro-generators with a reputable contractor to supply and install a solar system for them. It also provides a streamlined process from start to finish, helping make the application and installation process as smooth as possible. For more information visit the Equs Website.
The Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA) is currently offering the following energy efficiency incentive program:
Residential Renewable Energy Fund (RREF) The Residential Renewable Energy Fund is part of the Alternative Energy Technologies Program (AETP) offered through the AEA. Through this program, NWT residents can receive a rebate on the purchase of any renewable energy generation system.
Residents are eligible for up to $20,000 in rebate funding. and businesses, community governments, Indigenous governments, and non-profit organizations are eligible for up to $50,000.
The rebate amount you receive will be the lower of:
50% of the total eligible costs of your project
A calculation based on the amount of money and greenhouses gases that your project will save (see the program guidelines for more information)
Apart from solar photovoltaic systems, the rebate can also be applied towards wind turbines, ground-source heat pumps, Solar thermal (hot water and air), hydro, and pellet and wood furnaces. Visit Arctic Energy Alliance for more details.
SaskPower Net Metering Program:
System size criteria: Up to 100 kW (dc). This allows you to install a solar PV system which will generate energy to decrease your monthly power bill and receive credits for excess power generated.
You will now receive 7.5 ¢/kWh (instead of the standard retail rate) for any excess power you use and provide back onto the SaskPower power grid.
When you’re using the power your system produces, you’re offsetting power from the grid at your standard retail rate (e.g. 14.54¢/kWh for residential customers in 2019).
You can carry forward any unused credits on your bill until you move or close your account. Please note that the credits are non-refundable and will not be paid out.
More information here.
Summerland Net Metering Program:
The District of Summerland has relaunched its Distributed Generation (Net Metering) Program! This program allows customers with small (30kW or less), inverter-based, distributed generation (DG) solar PV systems or wind turbines to be connected to the Summerland Distribution System (Summerland’s electric grid).
Summerland electrical utility customers who participate in the program are able to completely offset their own electricity needs each calendar year, after which the District of Summerland will purchase any excess energy that is put back onto the grid at the wholesale rate.
Full details on the program and the current retail rates (under Fees & Charges Bylaw) can be found here.
PST Tax Exemption:
The following materials and equipment are exempt from PST in British Columbia: Solar photovoltaic collector panels, and wiring, controllers, and devices that convert direct current into alternating current, when they are sold with, and as part of, a system that includes solar photovoltaic collector panels. Solar thermal collector panels, and wiring, pumps, tubing, and heat exchangers, when they are sold with, and as part of, a system that includes solar thermal collector panels.
Section 43.2 Tax Incentives (commercial projects only):
A 50% accelerated CCA is provided under Class 43.2 of Schedule II to the Income Tax Regulations for specified clean energy generation equipment. Eligible equipment includes solar thermal, solar air and solar photovoltaic equipment while project size restrictions have been eliminated. Depreciation of the solar asset can only be applied to solar revenues unless the business is involved in manufacturing or processing, mining or the sale, distribution or production of energy of any kind.
For more information please click here.
Federal Solar Rebate for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) –the application process is now closed
Keep in mind that incentive programs can change quickly and the information above may not always be completely up to date. Please contact SkyFire Energy for the most up to date information.
What is involved in a solar site assessment?
A detailed and comprehensive solar site assessment is a necessary component for any solar electric installation. A typical site assessment includes the following:
- Accurate measurements of roof or ground space including locations of plumbing stacks, chimneys, skylights, attic vents, etc
- Shading analysis from the proposed location for solar (sometimes several points need to be analyzed to determine the best location) – this data is used to provide accurate energy production estimates
- Discussion with home or business owner to determine the route of cable from site of the solar electric array to location of inverter/mains panel
- Determine the location of the inverter(s) and integration into the building’s electrical system.
SkyFire will provide preliminary ballpark cost, energy production, and an economic analysis specific to your home/building through email as a first step. We would be pleased to provide a free and comprehensive site assessment after this initial step. For new construction residential and commercial projects, SkyFire can provide a design and quote directly from the drawings for the building. – Contact us to get started today!
What is the residential solar installation process like from start to finish?
Making the decision to switch to solar is an awesome one. However, getting started and understanding the process can often be fraught with uncertainty for those unfamiliar with the industry. SkyFire Energy provides turnkey systems and takes care of all of the permitting, grid connection application, etc. Here is a list of the steps for a typical residential installation:
- Initial estimate – If high-quality satellite images are available, we can provide accurate estimates for system size and energy production for your specific house.
- Site assessment – We visit the site to obtain detailed site-specific information required for a solar installation including detailed roof measurements, electrical capacity of your electrical system and a shading analysis (if required). For a new construction home, SkyFire can design a system right from the architectural drawings.
- System design & quote – SkyFire will design a system specific to your roof space, budget and electricity needs. This is an iterative process and multiple options can be presented. SkyFire provides you with a sketch showing what your home will look like with solar on the roof as well as an economic analysis.
- Permitting and grid connection application – SkyFire takes care of ALL the permitting required (Electrical, Building and/or Development permits) and the application to connect the system to the grid.
- Installation and commissioning – by our highly trained and experienced installation crews.
- Final walkthrough with the homeowner and delivery of system manuals
It’s that easy! Contact us today to get started.
Solar Performance in Canada
How does Canada’s solar potential compare globally?
Canada may not be your top choice for a tropical destination, but luckily for us, warm weather actually has very little to do with our ability to generate solar power! Surprising to many, latitude has only a small effect on solar production. For example, a solar PV system located in Calgary will produce approximately the same amount of energy on an annual basis as that same system in Miami, Florida. Calgary receives lots of sunshine all year round and solar PV modules actually produce more energy when they are cold! Canada also compares extremely well when comparing the production potential of leading solar industry countries. For example, Alberta’s solar resource is significantly better than Germany’s (up to 50% more) despite the Germans leading the solar industry globally!
Additionally, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina,Toronto and Vancouver all rank higher in yearly photovoltaic (PV) potential than Berlin. Calgary even has higher solar potential than Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Rome, Italy Even remote areas of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon rate high in yearly PV potential. A solar PV system designed and installed by SkyFire in Fort Simpson, NT has produced ~980 kWh/kW in the year since its installation – that’s more than the PV potential of cities such as Tokyo, Paris, and London! These examples illustrate the importance of investment in Canada’s solar energy resource in the years to come. Data and images: CanSIA and Natural Resources Canada
What happens when it snows?
Canadian winters are synonymous with snow so it is important that consideration is given for the effects of snow on winter and year-round energy production from solar electric and solar thermal systems. Although clearing the snow from a solar array can help you squeeze a few more kiloWatt-hours (kWh) from your solar PV system. We do not recommend that any of our customers get up on their roof to clear the solar modules (panels) of snow during the winter months – this is extremely dangerous and not necessary. With a grid-connected solar electric system, the total annual energy production from the system is most important. The majority of the energy produced by a solar electric system in Canada is produced from March to October. Lost energy production due to snow during the darker months of November to February is not as important. With all that said, solar electric and solar thermal systems will actually clear themselves of snow! There are a number of factors that affect when and how quickly this will happen such as:
- ambient temperature – the warmer the better
- amount of sunlight (insolation) – the snow isn’t usually cleared on a cloudy day but the energy production from a cloudy winters day is negligible anyways
- angle and orientation of the solar array – the steeper the angle, the quicker the snow clears; facing directly South or slightly West of South helps with snow clearing
- solar module backing color (dark or black modules will get hotter) – black solar modules might clear snow faster but solar modules actually produce less energy when hot, more when they are cold so there are tradeoffs here
- How much snow is on the modules – the sun can penetrate a couple of inches of snow to heat up the modules but penetrating through 6 inches of snow or more is less likely – a big dump of snow might stick to the modules until the wind blows some of it off or until warmer weather moves in
To help illustrate this point, we recorded a time-lapse video showing the snow clear from our Calgary office’s solar array after a snowstorm blew through. The roughly 6cm of snow was cleared by 2:30 pm the day after the snowstorm.
The solar array, in this case, is at 35 degrees, which is a good angle for year-round production while limiting the ‘sail’ effect and structural concerns of a more upright solar array. This system uses Enphase Energy microinverters which allow for energy monitoring of each individual module. We can see the effect of the snow cover on the bottom of the solar array reflected online. The photo and the monitoring screenshot both show conditions at 1:15 pm the day after the blizzard:
Will my solar panels stand up to hail?
The simple answer is “YES”. A solar module or panel that is installed properly and tilted to face South should never break from hail. Up until the massive Cardston hail storm, we would tell people, “we’ve never seen or heard of a solar module (panel) being damaged from hail”. That includes many hail storms over the years (we have had solar panels installed in Alberta since 2001), many of them bringing golf ball-sized hail or larger. In fact, we sometimes need to remove (and later re-install) an intact solar system so roofers can re-shingle a roof that was destroyed by hail! Luckily this is always covered by the insurance company. If that’s not enough proof that the panels can stand up to hail check out this cool video:
Well, that being said, we learned that solar panels are not 100% safe when tennis ball and baseball-sized hail hit a Southern Alberta town called Cardston. We do know of one solar PV system in Cardston that had broken panels from the hail storm. Then again, virtually everything in Cardston was damaged or destroyed by hail, including a report that half the vehicles at the dealership in town were damaged so badly that they had to be completely written off! The solar panels, in this case, were mounted flat by the homeowner and not tilted South. Had they been tilted South, they likely would have survived indirect strikes of hail from the NW. The module’s (panels) tempered glass is typically rated for 1? hail at 55 mph.
photo: Ben Wright
So, should you still put solar on your roof, YES, of course! In the absolute worst case, if your house gets pummelled by baseball-sized hail, the solar modules, the rest of the house (shingles, siding, skylights, windows, eaves, etc.) and your vehicle glass and body will all be covered by insurance. Just make sure to add the solar system to your insurance policy, typically there is no additional fee for this, and if there is a fee it will likely be in the range of $20/year for most systems. And the winner is… Solar!
How does the angle of a solar array affect performance?
The more perpendicular to the Sun’s rays a solar module is, the greater the output. Having your modules face directly South (Azimuth = 0) and at a 45 degree tilt from the horizontal is ideal in Calgary. As we can see, the overall effect of deviating from the ideal is not altogether significant.