On the grid, but green

Has your power bill been a little high lately and you’d like to get involved with green power systems?

In Alberta

In Alberta

Has your power bill been a little high lately and you’d like to get involved with green power systems?

Grid tie may be what you are looking for.

Grid tie is an alternate energy production system, making power from sunshine and/or wind, that is hooked to your electrical panel and sends the excess power produced into Alberta’s electrical grid.

The Alberta Electrical Utilities Act Reg. 27/2008 lays out the rules determining metering of micro generator produced power and the micro-generators compensation.

So how does this all work?

Generally grid tied homes use solar panels that are mounted, either on a house or garage, or on a pole, tracker or ground-mount out in the yard.

Multiple solar panels are called arrays and each array is wired into an inverter. An inverter is a device that converts the direct current produced by the solar panels into the alternating current that is used by the power utilities. The inverter is then wired into your electrical panel.

Once you have your interconnection agreement in place, your electrical service provider will supply a bi-directional power meter and the power you generate will either run some or possibly all of your appliances; and if you generate an excess of energy, it will turn your meter backwards, thus reducing your total power consumption and your monthly bill.

There are a number of considerations to doing a grid tie, the first being your site:

• Do you have enough southern exposure to provide adequate energy generation?

• What is your budget?

• How many panels and what type are you going to use?

• What type of inverter will serve your purposes the best?

• Is a wind turbine an option at your site?

• If it is, what type, horizontal axis (HAWT), or vertical axis (VAWT)?

• What size, 400 watt, 50 kilowatt?

Different types of turbines have different advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Once these items are taken into consideration, the next step is to consult with an electrical contractor, preferably one with solar installation experience, and get a quote for your estimated cost.

If everything works out to satisfy your budget, and your intent, then the next step is to start your application to become a micro generator.

Alberta has implemented a micro-generator regulation that allows those who are interested in producing their own environmentally friendly power “a simplified interconnection process to connect their own ‘green’ electricity to the grid.”

This application process is administered by the Alberta Utilities Commission.

Micro generator application process and guidelines can be found on the commission website at www.auc.ab.ca and the information can be downloaded and used to fill out the application form correctly.

The process is relatively streamlined and it provides for the safe generation of renewable energy, installed to meet all pertinent electrical codes, and the guarantee of the micro generator receiving fair compensation for the energy they produce.

We will discuss the Alberta Utilities Act and the new regulations further in the next column.

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. Oja, who lives in west Central Alberta, can be contacted at lorne@solartechnical.ca