Future looks bright for solar power

Solar power is becoming more popular as electricity rates soar. Above is the 1.1 kW Visitor’s Centre in Hudson’s Hope, B.C.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

Alternate energy sources are a hot topic on many people’s minds!
As a result of skyrocketing energy costs and exorbitant transmission and distribution fees, many people are considering generating their own energy for their homes with solar PV arrays or panels.
However, with consideration of alternate energy also comes many misguided or misinformed concerns that need to be addressed. Navigating information regarding solar energy can be daunting and trying to determine what information online is factual or not can be tedious.
Peace Energy a Renewable Energy Cooperative executive director Don Pettit says solar energy has become much more cost effective to install over recent decades and there are a number or reasons why people should consider it for their homes or businesses.
“It reduces or eliminates electrical costs, providing a three to six per cent return on the solar equipment investment,” says Pettit.
“Roof top solar is the most environmentally responsible energy available today. Make the energy right where it is used. Organizations like ours make it easy to consider by providing full-service design, supply, and installation.”
Pettit notes solar energy increases the resale value of the home. He notes there is currently a $5,000 Canada Green Home grant available for homeowners to apply for that helps to make purchasing solar panels even more cost effective.
“The size of the array is determined by the home’s energy use but roughly 5 to 10 kWh of grid-tied solar would take care of most people’s energy use and would cost about $15,000 to $30,000 installed,” says Pettit.
“Roof top is recommended for best price and best security, but ground mount provides more actual power each year, but it costs more to install.”
Pettit says solar panels and most other solar equipment come with 25-year warranties, quashing the common misconception they need to be replaced frequently.
“I have one panel (on my home) that is 37 years old and several over 25 years,” says Pettit.
“They are still in service and doing well. Theoretically, they can run for over 100 years, but most will be replaced by then by newer higher efficiency solar tech,” he adds.
Pettit notes solar panels last so long that the next misconception of “they’ll just end up in the landfill” is a moot point.
“As panels now exist, 90 per cent of the materials are 100 per cent recyclable and this will improve over time as full life-cycle production becomes common place,” he says.
A perk of solar energy is the panels produce zero emissions when they are in operation.
“Emissions caused by manufacturing powered by fossil fuels is still high, but this will continue to decrease as more renewable energy is used in manufacturing,” he explains.
“Eventually, even manufacturing will approach zero (emissions) as more and more renewables come online. There is no part of manufacturing solar panels that cannot be done with renewable electricity alone.”
Pettit explains that solar energy has such low maintenance and a low carbon footprint, as a result it will reduce the cost of grid energy overall. He says in some jurisdictions solar is now cheaper than coal, oil or gas power and the trend will continue as solar production increases reducing manufacturing costs.
Peace River resident Wanda Laurin and her husband have adopted solar energy to power their home. She says it has made them more mindful about when they’re using energy-intense appliances to reduce their energy bills by using mainly their solar energy to generate their power.
“We try to use all of our appliances during the daylight hours,” says Laurin, including things like her dishwasher, clothes washer, and plugging in their electric vehicle to daytime energy usage.
“You want the free electricity, and you want to reduce your draw from the grid because every kilowatt hour (kWh) you use from the grid comes with a percentage of transmission and distribution costs.”
Laurin adds that her family is more conscious about when they use their energy to both reduce their bills and help to reduce excess grid use. She says that in August her panels generated enough energy to return to the grid that she and her husband had a credit on their electric bill.
“During the winter we are on a fixed rate of return from our retailer for solar,” she says, noting that her rate is around nine cents per kWh.
“In the spring, summer and fall we can get a premium payment for solar electricity we put into the grid of anywhere from 19 cents per kWh to 35 cents per kWh. You start thinking about reducing your draw from the grid for sure and just using your own electricity from solar whenever you can.”
In addition to many domestic solar projects being initiated, there are also some projects being considered by municipalities and businesses throughout the northern part of Alberta. With long summer days and plenty of sun available through the months, arrays are being used to offset costs on facilities like recreational complexes, municipal offices, gun ranges, and RV campsites in the region.
Both Pettit and Laurin anticipate more home and business owners adopting solar energy in the near future to offset expenses, fight climate change, and to become electrically net zero.

Many homeowners are finding it more economically feasible to install solar panels. Above is an 8.2 kW home in Montney, B.C.
Peace Energy a Renewable Energy Cooperative’s solar panels at their head office in Dawson Creek, B.C.

Photos courtesy of Don Pettit, executive director, Peace Energy a Renewable Energy Cooperative.

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