Solar System Maintenance and Cost

 

20. Do I have to clean my solar modules?

Modules can require a small amount of maintenance.  They can get covered in dirt, dust, bird droppings or snow. Usually, rain will do most of the cleaning for you.  Rare occasions where regular cleaning is required may happen in the proximity of certain trees, spaying operations or soot.  Completely covering even one cell of a solar module can potentially effect the performance of the entire array until the cell is un-shaded. It is worthwhile to visually inspect your solar array and periodically check its performance. 

21. What are the effects of snow on panels?

A layer of snow can reduce your solar array output to zero. Although clearing accumulated snow can help you squeeze a few more kiloWatt-hours (kWh) from your solar PV system, the months with snow are also the lowest production months. The decision to manually clear snow will vary from system to system and owner to owner. Clearing the snow by getting on the roof can be a risky business and is usually not recommended. 

With an off-grid system snow clearing is usually worthwhile because winter can be the period with the highest demand for electricity and the least amount of sun available. It is a judgment that every solar system owner must make for themselves. 

Please check out the NAIT/City of Edmonton Reference Array System on the SESA website for more detail and data on the effect of snow.

22. What about hail damage?

Solar panels are made with a tempered glass that gets tested and rated for 1″ hail at 88kph. The fact that most modules are set at an angle reduces the likelihood of a direct perpendicular hit. SkyFire Energy reports that “we’ve never seen or heard of a solar module (panel) being damaged from hail” since they have been installing in 2001.

Cost

23. What does a system cost?

Solar PV systems have drastically dropped in price over the last 20 years.  Solar PV systems today can be installed for as low as $2.5 dollars an installed Watt. With a system warranty of 25 years, buying a solar system today is comparable to locking in at today's electricity prices for the next 25 years. 

The average Alberta household consumes about 7200 kWh of electricity per year. In Alberta, this would require a solar PV system of around 6000 installed Watts to reach net-zero electricity use on a yearly basis. Assuming a cost of $3.00/Watt of installed capacity, this system would cost about $18 000. 

While the average household in Alberta consumes about 7200 kWh electricity per year, your own consumption depends on several factors, including:

  • The number of people living in your home
  • Your home's size and type (i.e. whether it's a single-detached house, an apartment, or a condo)
  • The age of your home
  • How well-insulated your home is
  • Which appliances use electricity or gas
  • The energy efficiency of your appliances
  • The weather

24. Can I sell energy back to the grid?

Yes, as of January 1, 2009, Alberta established that the energy retailer must buy back exported power at a rate equivalent to the customer’s retail rate. If you buy for 8 cents per kilowatt hour you will be credited at 8 cents per kilowatt hour. This is called Net Billing and requires a Solar PV Utility Interactive system to feed back to the grid. There are ongoing discussions in Alberta about improving the price paid for solar electricity.

25. If I produce excess electricity, will my utilities send me a cheque?

The utilities will give you a credit on your bill.  Some retails will pay you extra for your solar produced. These companies include Alberta Cooperative Energy (ACE), Park Power, and EQUS. 

26. Are there government incentives available?

Please view our Grants and Incentives Page for more information!

There is a Federal 50% accelerated Capital Cost Allowance in Canada. Solar PV equipment used for a business is included in this incentive and further information can be found at http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporate/1513. This link also contains a list of other solar incentive programs throughout Canada. 

27. Do I need special insurance requirements?

Standard homeowner’s insurance policies usually suffice to meet electric utility requirements. Electric utilities usually require that homeowners who take advantage of net metering sign an interconnection agreement.

28. Can I Lease a solar PV system?

Yes, the utility ENMAX offers customers in Alberta a leasing option for their solar PV system.  Details and sign-up page: https://www.enmax.com/home/renewable-energy

29. What is the expected return on investment for a residential or commercial solar system?

We recommend having a site assessment done by a reputable contractor to determine the expected ROI on your solar proposal. This is due to the high number of site-specific factors that play a role in determining the ROI of each individual project. The many factors required for this estimation can be too highly variable between different projects for us to provide you with any ROI estimates. There are many contractors who will do this for you free of charge.

 

NEXT PAGE - WORKING IN SOLAR

randomness