About Solar Power
Why is solar power good for the environment?
Sun-generated power is clean — no pollution, noise or fossil fuels. A typical 6 kilowatt system will eliminate 120 tons of carbon dioxide over its 30+ year lifetime.
How does solar power work?
Solar power systems turn sunlight into electricity. Silicon wafers capture photons from sunlight, turn them into DC power, which is then transformed into 120 volt AC power and connected to a meter which is connected to your incoming Ontario Hydro grid — as well as the local electrical grid.
What are the components of a solar power system?
- Solar Cells: “Solar power cells” make up the building blocks of a solar energy system. These solar power (photovoltaic) cells convert light energy into electricity at the atomic level.
- Solar Module: Multiple cells are usually combined into a complete “solar module” that also includes a frame for the system, electrical interconnections and mounting hardware.
- Solar Panel: Multiple modules are assembled into a “solar panel” that is then secured to the roof or other structure.
- Inverter: An “inverter,” usually installed on the outside of your home, takes the DC output from the cells and transforms it into usable AC power.
- Electric Panel: Electricity will be sent from the inverter to your “electric panel” (or “breaker box”). Your meter will spin backward when your solar system produces more electricity than you need and will spin forward at night or on cloudy days.
- Utility Grid: The “utility grid” refers to the electricity going to/from your electric provider. When you go solar, you will send back to the grid the electricity that you produce in excess of your consumption, and use grid electricity at night or on cloudy days.
What is a kilowatt (kW)? Kilowatt hour (kWh)?
Kilowatt refers to a unit of energy. A W (watt) refers to a unit of power while a K (kilo) is 1000 x that unit. A kWh is simply denoting to the number of kilowatt’s generated in an hour. For instance a 100 Watt light left on for 10 hours would consume 1kWh, that is, 100 Watts x 10 hours = 1,000 Watt hours = 1kWh.
What is solar photovoltaic (PV)?
Solar photovoltaic cells encompass some of the most modern technology available. These cells absorb the sun’s direct rays, the most readily and plentifully available renewable source, and turn them into energy. When a photon of light hits the silicon on your solar panel, electrical energy is released in the form of an electron. These electrons are then engineered to result in an electrical charge. It’s a much more efficient process than solar thermal energy, as converting heat energy to electricity is quite intricate.
How can I find out if going solar is right for me?
The best way to find out if solar is right for you is to request a free Solar Evaluation, and we will provide you with a proposal that factors in your budget requirements, the property’s sun exposure and orientation, and your last 12 month’s kilowatt hour (kWh) use
Will solar panels work in the north?
Yes. Ontario has good quantities of sunlight.
What about trees?
No part of a solar panel should be covered in shade between 8:00am and 6:00pm during summer months or 10:00am to 4:00pm in winter. Even a small amount of shade can drastically reduce electrical production. If shading may take place, we offer a micro-inverter system. With a micro-inverter, only the panel or panels, that have shading, have reduced power output. With a central inverter, if one panel in a string of panels is shaded, the output of the whole string can be reduced.
Do I need to face due South?
While solar thermal systems that heat water can face east, west or south, solar PV panels need to point close to a southerly direction. Some mounting systems can assist with aiming the panels if they are not to far off of south. The ground mounted systems can easily be aimed in the correct direction. You should NEVER install rooftop mounted solar panels facing straight East or West!
Will I need new appliances, or changes to my home electric wiring if I go solar?
No. Your internal home electric system will not be affected by a move to solar, so no need to make any changes. The one difference will see is additional credit in your bank account every month.
The FIT/microFIT Program
What is a feed-in-tariff (FIT)?
A feed-in-tariff (FIT or FiT) is a program by a government or utility to purchase electricity generated by renewable energy sources at a fixed price, guaranteed over a number of years. For example, the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) microFIT program offers up to 54.9 ¢/kWh for rooftop solar power systems, guaranteed for twenty years. It encourages renewable energy generation, expands energy sources, supports energy independence, and boosts the green economy.
What are the goals of the OPA FIT program?
The FIT program, involving solar projects over 10 kW, is aimed to encourage the use of renewable energy amongst large buildings, farms, businesses and any other sites where it may have otherwise been overlooked. Factors which may have formerly hindered development, such as costs, will be turned into a income as the program provides a substantial return on investment, and allows for the contract partaker to pay back the system as well as attain monetary gain. The overall goals of FIT include:
- Phase out coal-fired electricity by Ontario generation by 2014
- Increase economic activity and the development of renewable energy technologies
- Create over 50,000 green jobs
- Turn Ontario into a world leader for renewable energy
Who can participate in the FIT/microFIT program?
The FIT/microFIT Program is offered to solar power projects of almost all sizes in Ontario. Additions to existing facilities (incremental projects) may be eligible, but please contact XeoSolar for details.
How is the microFIT program different from the FIT program?
The key difference between the two programs is the capacity of the solar power system.
– microFIT: 10 kW or less
– FIT: 10 kW or larger, and a maximum size may apply for certain systems
Is there a penalty for cancelling the FIT/microFIT contract?
No, a customer may choose to cancel their contract without enduring any fees. The OPA will require 30 days’ notice for any cancellations. However, it should be noted that if a homeowner cancels their agreement with the distribution company the FIT contract will also be cancelled.
When do I receive a FIT/microFIT contract?
XeoSolar will apply for your FIT/microFIT contract on your behalf as part of full integration of your solar power project. It will be presented to you once the application has been approved by the OPA.
Can I use the electricity for my use?
No, you cannot. It has to be sold to OPA and fed into the grid. Besides, why would you want to use it when you can buy at $ 0.07 and sell it at $ 0.803?
What if there is a blackout in the grid?
To prevent harming Hydro repair crew from jolts, solar systems are designed to shut feeding into the grid when its sensors do not sense electricity in the grid.
What if I sell my house while under a FIT/microFIT contract?
There are several options when selling your home:
- We help you transfer your FIT/microFIT contract to the new home buyer, who will own the system, the contract and receive payments for the electricity the system generates.
- We can also help you cancel your FIT/microFIT contract, and move and re-install your solar panels at another location. We would then have to apply for a new FIT/microFIT contract so you can receive payments.
Your solar power system – and the FIT/microFIT contract – is valuable. XeoSolar can help you and your agents determine the added value that your solar power system and FIT/microFIT contract gives your home when you sell.
How are FIT/microFIT payments calculated?
The homeowner will be compensated for all electricity generated by their solar power system. The exact payments are calculated based on the contract amount (ex: 54.9 ¢/kWh for rooftop microFIT) multiplied by the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) that is produced.
How am I paid for the power I generate?
You will be paid by directly by your current Local Distribution Company (LDC) for all electricity generated by your solar power system, corresponding with your existing hydro billing cycle dates.
What happens once the FIT/microFIT contract expires?
Solar panels are built to last. Despite the fact that the contract will end after twenty years, your panels will continue producing energy for years beyond that expiration. Your options at that time depend on the situation in Ontario. Options may include continuing to sell the electricity to the grid, or connecting the system to your home so you can directly use the electricity it generates to and save hundreds if not thousands on your energy bill.
If I own more than one property, are they all eligible to receive contract?
Yes, owners of multiple properties can obtain several FIT contracts.
What is Domestic Content?
In order to be awarded a FIT contract, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) requires a certain percentage of the system components to be sourced within Ontario:
- Solar PV projects: 50% on or before Dec 21, 2010 and 60% after
- Solar PV microFIT: 40% on or before Dec 31, 2010 and 60% after
XeoSolar proudly meets and exceeds OPA’s domestic content requirements.
What is a Green Electricity Certificate (GEC) or Renewable Energy Credit (REC) and how do I get one?
A Green Electricity Certificate (GEC) (also known as a Renewable Energy Certificate or REC) is created when a megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity is produced from a certified low-impact renewable energy source. These are then tradable in certain green marketplaces so individuals, companies and industries can offset their carbon emissions. FIT contract holders usually do not qualify for a GEC or REC due to the size of the project, and as they are selling their electricity to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). The US Environmental Protection Agency provides a good overview of GECs and RECs on their website: www.epa.gov/greenpower/gpmarket/rec.htm.
Is solar power limited to rooftops?
Besides rooftops, we install ground mounted systems as well: fixed mount (rack mount or pole mount), single and dual axis trackers.
What, if any are special requirements for roofing?
The ideal location is a generally south-facing roof in good condition, free of any shadows from trees, adjacent buildings or other obstructions during the sunniest portion of the day in both summer and winter. Roof objects such as dormers, chimneys and skylights may reduce the size of system that can be installed. XeoSolar can do a feasibility study to determine where on your property is the most optimum location for your system.
Do I need to apply for any building permits?
XeoSolar will make sure that your solar power system is in compliance with any zoning by-laws and building code requirements, including applying for local building permits.
How will solar panels affect the lifespan of my roof?
Despite many buyers’ apprehensions, solar panels actually help to protect your roofing material from damage, therefore increasing its longevity.
How are the solar panels attached? Will they be drilling any holes in my roof?
We do make holes when mounting a flush roof mount system and in some flat roof developments. However, flashing is applied and cautiously sealed to prevent any leakage.
What if I need a new roof or need to conduct roof repairs?
XeoSolar Solar recommends that clients conduct roof repairs before the solar panels are installed. Although you do not need a brand new roof to go solar, if you were planning on replacing your roof, we also recommend you go ahead before we install your panels. Should you need to repair your roof after the panels are installed, they can easily be removed and re-installed. However, this will involve additional labor charges.
Would I be able to perform the installations of the solar power system or PV panels myself?
No, to ensure safety and proper installation, it is important that the work is performed by certified and experienced contractors. Any new wiring in your home, including the addition of solar panels, need to pass an inspection by the Electrical Safety Authority, which we arrange.
Do I require special insurance to cover my solar power system?
It is possible that your insurance company will require additional coverage for a solar power project on your property. As these are virtually theft proof and chances of damages are limited due to it’s rugged nature, additional riders cost minimum to cover fire & flood liabilities.
What are my options if my roof is not suitable for solar panels?
If your roof is not suitable, we can work with you to find an appropriate ground mounted system. We install fixed, single-axis and dual-axis tracker systems. (See below.)
Can I add more panels to my current solar power system?
Yes, we can help you enlarge your system and still be eligible for the FIT/microFIT program, through what is called an incremental project.
How will I know if my system is not producing electricity?
Our system comes with a monitoring system which uses your home wireless router to send you a message if the system becomes faulty or any part of any of panels is covered by objects. You can also use this monitoring system to check the amount of electricity generated every day.
What are maintenance charges and efforts?
Maintenance charges consist primarily of monthly meter charges by your local electric company, additional insurance and electronic monitoring charges. Besides that, all that the panels will require is power wash annually if there is accumulation of dust.
Ground mounted systems
What are fixed, single-axis and dual-axis tracking systems?
These are different mounts for your solar panels.
Fixed: the panels remain in a fixed position, determined as the optimal angle for sun exposure.
Single-axis: the panels rotate either up and down, or side to side to capture the sun as it moves across the sky.
Dual-axis: the panels rotate both up and down and side to side, capturing the most sunlight possible. Dual-axis trackers can generate approximately 20% more energy than single-axis trackers.
What is the difference between a passive tracking system and an active tracking system?
An active tracking system is kind of ground mounted system that actively moves to track the sun’s position throughout the day with the use of special optic sensors. This ensures that the panels achieve the maximum amount of energy generation. A passive tracking system uses the sun’s heat to move a liquid inside the panel from side to side, physically moving the device towards the area of optimum sunlight.
Costs and Return on Investment (ROI)
What is the approximate cost of a solar power system?
The cost varies depending on the type and size of the project.
Will HST apply to my income from the solar panels?
You are only charged HST if you are earning $30,000 or more a year in a business venture. HST will apply on purchase price of system. If you register or, are already registered for HST, this will be refunded to you fully by the department when you file your first HST return. You will have to register, collect and remit HST if your annual revenue exceeds $30,000.
Will this affect my property tax?
Currently, solar panels do not attract additional property tax.
How will my solar power system affect the value of my property?
Our solar power systems – and the FIT/microFIT contract – increase your property’s market value. When it comes to resale, property owners often discover they can sell at a premium. It is same as selling a finished and rented basement….generating income. This additional revenue can be factored in as reduction in mortgage payment to prospective buyer. As well, the cost of your system can be depreciated to zero in order to reduce the amount of taxes you are paying for your solar income. In other words, any revenue generated from sale of power to OPA will not attract income until it is fully depreciated.
Solar Panels and the Environment
Is Ontario too far north/too cold to generate solar power?
No, Ontario has more total annual hours of solar radiation than Germany and Tokyo, which are both leaders in the solar energy field. Some interesting facts about solar power in Ontario:
- Panels can generate more energy on cold sunny days than hot sunny days, as they become less effective in hotter temperatures. Same as car engines work more efficiently in winter than in summer.
- The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) reports that Ontario ranks higher for solar potential than Florida or Texas.
- Two studies conducted by the Queen’s University Applied Sustainability Research Group in Kingston, Ontario found that solar power in southeastern Ontario has the potential to produce almost the same amount of power as all nuclear reactors in the United States.
Will snow be an issue for my panels?
No, most of the snow that accumulates on your panels will melt off. Panels are often around 16 degrees Celsius hotter than the outdoor temperature. Also, panels have smooth glass surface and installed at a tilt. So the snow does not accumulate easily.
Are large amounts of wind a problem?
No, windy weather conditions are taken into consideration with the design of the solar panels.
Where are the best places to install my solar power system?
The optimum location is a generally south-facing roof in good condition, free of any shadows from trees or other obstructions during the sunniest portion of the day in both summer and winter. Roof objects such as dormers, chimneys and skylights may reduce the size of system that can be installed. XeoSolar can do a comprehensive analysis to determine where on your property is the most optimum location for your system.
What is the lifespan of my solar panels?
They are built to last. Many of the early solar panels created in the 1950’s are still generating energy. After 20 years of operation and past the expiry of your microFIT contract, your solar panels should still be running at about 80% of their original efficiency. Proper care, such as making sure that the panels aren’t covered in dirt or leaves, will ensure a long lifespan for your solar power system.