How do you use solar to add $20 thousand to your bank account?


by Kelvin Hodges

A few weeks ago, I briefly showed how electrical appliances are easier to use, and cheaper to operate, than gas-powered ones. Just, I suppose, as gas-powered appliances, like cars, were cheaper and easier to use than, say, horses. In this week’s installment, I will show the first of two basic ways to add solar power to your home. And, as promised, we’ll look at some of the problems.

The first method is the easiest. It’s called “Grid Tie with Net Metering.” Put some panels on your roof. Hook them to the grid. Presto! For our test, we’ll use an initial investment of $7k (including labour), which will put 3kw of solar on your roof and tie an inverter into your house panel. You will send your power to the grid for anyone else to use, and you get the power back when you need it.

How many dollars will you make? (warning: math and basic figuring ahead.) Your 3kwh system, if you get around 2,345 hours of bright sun a year, makes 7,035kwh of solar every year, using the brightest hours. The average home uses 9,500 kwh a year and is calculated to be paying, in 2019, $128 x 12, or $1,536 a year, for electricity. As anyone in a rural location knows, they pay more than that. But still.

Lets do some figuring. So, 7,000 divided by 9,500 gives us a factor of .74; which we multiply by 1,536 to determine our annual solar savings of: $1,136.64. (Smile.) We can now see that our $7,000 investment in solar is paid back in six and a bit years. (Yes, if we went to a 5kwh system and made all our own power, we’d save more and be paid back quicker. But this is an experiment, so…

Now, all that equipment has a warranty of 25 years. Let’s see now. 25-6=19 x 1125 (I’m rounding) = 21,375. What could you do with that $21,375 of free power?

Hooray! We’ve now paid ourselves over $20,000 for creating some installation and manufacturing jobs. Wait. What? Yup. By installing solar you’ve a) created good jobs for engineers, research, installation; b) you’ve saved a tonne of money; and c) now Ontario has pretty clean power. But if we use 0.6 kilograms of CO2 per kwh (.1kg less than the US average), you reduce CO2 creation by 4,200 kg each year. Or, over 25 years 105,000kg (105 metric tonnes).

And the kicker: your solar system should last 50 years. You will need to replace an inverter, or probably two, over that 50 years; but it is heat that hurts solar panels. We have a cold climate. Hurrah!

How to start: Call Hydro at 1-877-447-4412 then (choose option 2). You can install any size. But Hydro will tell you if they have the capacity to add your power. Its been found that applications for 10kwh can be rejected, but a 5kwh (or even 3) can be accepted. If you don’t get the right answer, keep trying.

The problems: The three real problems with installing “Grid Tie” solar are government regulation, banks, insurance. Huh. There’s a surprise, right? The worst is government regulation. Did you know that every single tiny little region of Ontario has its own code for solar installation? An installation that, in the city of Toronto, is free can cost, just for the engineering report, $1,300 in Perth, plus permit. Ouch. This is why we really need to see local communities working together. Please, next time you see your mayor or council member, ask them what they are doing to lighten the onerous regulation burden.

And don’t let them tell you the code is the code. We update codes constantly as technology improves. The code is even designed for it. So, get at ’em and let’s get this fixed.

Banks aren’t really that much of a problem. Most homeowners will have little problem getting $7k on a line of credit. But special solar promotions would look good from a PR point of view. Statistics also show that solar on the roof improves the home value.

Insurance companies have been slow to bring solar insurance to the homeowner. No idea why. You’d think it was a great way to attract new customers. Anyway, get talking to your insurance company. If your rep gets 1,000 phone calls asking for solar insurance, they’ll get busy.

Article Factoid: Electrons move at the speed of light. The electron you knock into the grid at home may be used by someone a thousand miles away. Neat.


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