How to go solar

What is the process for putting a grid-tied solar array in your home and is it worth it?

What is the process for putting a grid-tied solar array in your home and is it worth it?

Let’s start with the process.

Step one would be to decide on a system that suits your budget and determines the equipment that you are going to use.

Once that decision is made, then you would go online to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) website and download the application, fill it out and send it in.

When your approval is received, barring any hold-ups, you can call your installers and or suppliers and start getting your array set up.

You’re done — you have made a good choice.

Your array is out in the open area of the yard with a clear view from east to west; your tracker is following the sun from morning until night, keeping the array at the optimum angle for the best energy harvest possible, year round, and life is good.

So now was all this effort worth it.

On a personal level, you have made a major contribution to reducing your carbon footprint by reducing your demand on energy produced by one of Alberta’s coal-fired power plants.

Coal-produced power in Alberta has been found to produce more than 25 per cent of Canada’s air pollution and about 40 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions (according to statistics gathered by the federal government and published by The Canadian Environmental Law Association and Environmental Defence in their 2005 Pollution Watch study).

Individually, you are making a statement and taking a stand on your commitment to help provide cleaner air and a cleaner environment for your children and grandchildren.

But what about economically, does it make sense?

Well let’s say you invested $7,500 in an array and on a tracker and your grid power is costing you $0.06 per kWh.

Calculating cost recovery at this rate, you come up with approximately some 19 years.

Not good!

The problem is that unlike Ontario, which pays up to $0.82 / kWh, Alberta will only pay you what you are charged, in this example $0.06 / kWh, and the actual cost of power is only 30 to 40 per cent of the bill (the other 60 to 70 per cent is service charges).

So is the financial side the only consideration — the be all end all?

We buy a new ATV for $8,000 to $14 000 and for new vehicles, we spend $20,000 to $60,000-plus, simply for transportation and status.

Both examples devalue rapidly and both add to the pollution problem.

One is necessary, the other simply one of life’s pleasures — and neither provides the average person with any monetary return.

Let’s face it, not all of us can afford either an ATV or a solar array, and of those who can, most do not see a need for the array.

Like the horseless carriage, time will prove the idea. A lot of companies see this and are working continuously on improving the technology and supporting the early adopters of alternate energy.

Lorne Oja is an energy consultant, power engineer and a partner in a company that installs solar panels, wind turbines and energy control products in Central Alberta. He built his first off-grid home in 2003 and is in the planning stage for his second. His column appears every second Friday in the Advocate. Contact him at: