As part of Alberta’s 2014 Green Energy Doors Open (GEDO), a site tour and presentation were given at a local man’s residence in Red Deer County this past Saturday where attendees were shown first hand the benefits of solar energy.
This is the first time GEDO has taken place in Alberta as the initiative originated in Ontario with the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, who wished to expand on the success of the event in Ontario by bringing it to Alberta.
GEDO aims to give a sense of transparency and education around the idea of green energies such as solar power.
Terry Krause explained during the tour of his home how he has wanted solar panels for a long time, however it wasn’t economically possible until this past June.
Together with local solar company Sunfind Solar Products, Krause had a solar array comprised of 16 solar modules installed on the roof of his home and was plugged into the utility grid where he can now not only generate enough energy to power his home, but has the potential to sell unused energy back to the power company.
Caleb Schmidt with Sunfind explained during the seminar and tour how, “The economics of residential solar have gone from unfavourable a mere five years ago, to favourable today.
“What has contributed to this? The major driver is the drastic drop in solar prices.”
Five years ago the cost of a 260W solar module would cost around $10/W, which would land one module at $2,600. Today that same module has dropped in price over the last five years by 89% costing only $296.
“Today we can generate solar electricity for less than the utility.
“By using a solar PV system, we can reduce 100 per cent of your consumption charges and we can reduce most of the transmission and distribution fees (from the utility companies),” said Schmidt.
He went on to explain that while solar energy can zero out your usage charges from the utility company, there will always be transmission and distribution charges from the utility but these charges can be avoided if your array produces enough energy for a bill credit.
“If we look at Terry’s system, he should produce during the summer months more than he is using, so it is still possible to get paid by the utility company in this way, because they will actually give you a credit on your bill for that energy going back into the grid,” said Schmidt.
“This credit can be carried over into the fall and winter and used to offset the costs of powering your home when your solar panels aren’t producing as much in the winter. At the end of the year if you still haven’t used up all of your credit, then the utility company will actually write you a cheque.”
Krause’s system, which is guaranteed for over 30 years, came with an installed price of about $16,000, which he sees as an investment for retirement and way to offset the cost of living.
With the retirement of a number of coal power plants throughout Alberta beginning in 2016, Schmidt stated the cost of energy is about to drastically increase and inflate in the province.
“According to the Utilities Consumer Advocate, since 2002 our utilities costs have rose 5.19% per year on average,” said Schmidt.
“Once these coal plants do start to retire, utilities will rely more on natural gas, which is more expensive to generate so we will begin to see a larger rise in our utility costs.”
However, a silver lining for solar when it comes to the rising costs of energy from utility companies is that they will pay you the same rate to put energy back into the grid as they charge for you to use it.
“Solar is a great way to protect against utility inflation rates, because the higher the utility rates, the more money you are actually going to be saving because they will be paying you more for the energy you generate,” said Schmidt.
Krause, who built his home in 2007 with the idea of installing solar technologies in the future, stated he couldn’t be happier with his array, adding he didn’t do it just for the economic benefits.
“A lot of what I do with my home is about the environmental impacts,” said Krause.
“Little things like adding dual flush toilets to save water, dimmer switches throughout the home, a high efficiency wood burning stove to heat our home, there’s no carpet throughout our home, we have a highly efficient boiler system heating our rayonic under floor heating to provide minimum heat loss throughout the home and we haven’t owned a clothes dryer in over 12 years and we use a number of rain barrels to water our organic garden.”