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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is energy derived from the power of the sun. The sun emits energy that we experience as light and heat both of which are integral to life on earth. Sunlight is Earth’s primary source of energy. Photovoltaic, or PV, energy is electricity that is generated by natural elements that create an electric current when exposed to light. This current can be harnessed to create useable electricity for our homes and businesses. This power is measured in Watts.

Is my house or property suitable for a solar installation?

The ideal scenario for a solar array in Ontario is south-facing at an angle of approximately 33º with no shading particularly during peak-sun times. However, any installation that faces south-west to south-east can still provide good to excellent electricity generation. The main concern is shading.

How old can my roof be to install a solar system?

Since a solar system can last for decades, it’s best to install on a new roof. We recommend a metal roof for worry-free electricity generation and protection, however a solar system will actually prolong the life of any roof since the greatest damage is typically from UV rays. Solar panels also protect your roof from wind, snow and rain. If you need a roofer, we can recommend one.

What happens when I have to change my roof?

The array will have to be removed and reinstalled after the roof is redone. This would require about ½ – 1 day to remove and 1-2 days to replace. We recommend installing a PV system on a new roof especially a long-lasting metal roof.

How big a system do I need?

Traditionally, solar electric power systems in Canada were off-grid, storing their energy in batteries to supply required or essential loads. In this case, it is critical that the power system is properly sized to provide an adequate amount of power throughout the year. Sizing calculations are based on the expected power usage of the load, i.e. lights, refrigerator, television, etc. Natural Resources Canada has a good guide for rough sizing of off-grid loads, read here. When connected to the grid it is generally considered best to remain connected and sell solar-generated electricity to your hydro company. A system sizing approach in the case of grid-tied systems is based on a combination of available roof area with good solar exposure, project budget, and the available capacity of the local hydro company’s electricity lines to accept your project’s generation. In the case of Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff, the largest system within each incentive rate category will realize the greatest return on investment due to economies of scale and certain fixed costs. Therefore, it makes the most financial sense in terms of return on investment to install the largest system your site will support (up to 10kW AC for MicroFiT for example).

What rebates and incentives are available?

The Ontario Feed-in Tariff and Micro Feed-in Tariff (FIT an MicroFiT) offer substantial rates for renewable energy sold to the grid. Rooftop solar has the highest incentive rate.
The FiT and MicroFiT program is aimed to stimulate new electrical generation via renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass. The program facilitates deployment of systems via a 20 year, transferable contract to purchase the power supplied by a renewable energy system for a set fee over the contract period. The MicroFiT application process is far simpler and free to submit. This represents any installation under 10kW.
The rates are as follows:

Rooftop less than 10kW 54.9 cents/kWh
Rooftop between 10kW and 100kW 54.8 cents/kWh
Rooftop between 100kW and 500kW 53.9 cents/kWh
Rooftop greater than 500kW 48.7 cents/kWh
Ground-mount less than 10kW 44.5 cents/kWh
Ground-mount between 10kW and 500kW 38.8 cents/kWh
Ground-mount between 500kW and 5MW 35 cents/kWh
Ground-mount greater than 5MW 34.7 cents/kWh

HST can be both claimed on the cost of the system and charged to your LDC. Please view the following Canada Revenue Agency document and talk to your accountant and/or financial advisor for more information.

GST/HST Implications for MicroFiT Installations

 

How are PV systems sized?

PV Systems are typically sized in three ways using the following considerations: requirements for loads; budget; and/or available space for panels.

How should I size my system to best take advantage of the incentive rates?

Currently in Ontario, one of the more compelling reasons to install a renewable energy system is the return on investment (ROI) offered by the FiT or MicroFiT. ROI is usually highest when the system size approaches the maximum size within a given incentive rate section in order to take advantage of economies of scale and best absorb fixed costs. For example, a 10kW system would offer the best ROI under the MicroFiT incentive rate section where the maximum system size is 10kW. For this reason, most systems are typically maximized within an incentive rate section according to the available roof or ground space. PV systems are rated in terms of their output. This number refers to the nameplate rating of either the total size of the PV array or the rating of the inverter, whichever is lowest. Within the current framework of the FiT or MicroFiT program, the incentive rates are grouped within system sizes. The highest incentive rate is for MicroFiT roof-top systems up to 10 kilowatts (kW) of AC or DC power.

How will my PV system offset my electricity costs?

When taking part in the FiT or MicroFiT, your LDC will pay you for all the electricity you produce. How you spend this income is up to you. However, as an example of the electricity produced by a 1kW system compared to your electricity usage: in Southern Ontario a 1kW system will produce 1000-1100 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. By comparison, a typical household in Canada uses 9,000-10,000 kilowatt hours per year. For the typical family, 1kW will produce 11% of their power usage.?An efficient household, one with new appliances, and an energy conscious lifestyle will use 4-7,000 kilowatt hours. For them, each kW of PV will produce 16-28% of their power.

How much could I save/earn with a PV system?

If your system is connected under the MicroFIT program you would earn $0.549 per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. This amounts to $600 to $650 per kilowatt installed under good conditions (no shading, good orientation and tilt).

If your system is connected via net-metering, your system would offset an average of 1150kWh per installed kW. This would save approximately $115 per installed kilowatt per year on your electricity bills. This number would be higher when taxes and surcharges are factored in based on reduced consumption.

Will the installation affect my property taxes?

As of January 4, 2012, the Ontario Regulation 282/98 under the Assessment Act declared that the assessment and tax classification of property would not change due to the addition of a renewable energy installation on the rooftop of a building.

Please see the Ministry of Finance’s Property Tax Fact Sheet Jan 4, 2012.

For other jurisdictions please contact your financial advisor/accountant.

How will installing a PV system on my building affect my insurance?

Talk to your insurance provider about the implications of installing a photovoltaic system on your building. If your insurance provider is unwilling to insure the system or include it with your building insurance, contact us for the name of an insurance provider who will.

Are PV systems expandable?

Yes, however, it is important to discuss the possibility of expansion during the initial consultation process with your installer. This is because the possibility of expansion depends greatly on the type of inverter used in the system. Inverters are only designed to convert a specified number of watts. As a result, if your inverter is already operating at capacity, it cannot support additional panels. If you would like to expand your system in the future, your installer can discuss different inverter options to enable such expansion. A viable option is to install micro-inverters, which are paired with each panel individually. This makes for an easily expandable system. Future expansion should be planned for and discussed during the site assessment/consultation process. There are certain sizes that one can expand within depending on the inverter being used in the system.?A PV inverter is only rated to convert so many watts and cannot be expanded beyond it’s specifications.
Micro-inverters are another option for creating an expandable system.
NOTE: MicroFIT systems cannot be expanded beyond 10kW or without a “incremental” project contract.

What happens if there is a blackout?

In order for your system to provide you with power in the event of a blackout, it would need to have a back-up battery bank, however, most grid-tied systems have no batteries included. Batteries increase cost and complexity of your system. They also require a higher degree of monitoring and maintenance and require replacement more frequently than the other components of the system. Unless you are in a region that experiences blackouts on a frequent basis, it is generally not recommended in grid-tie systems. It is possible, however, to design a grid-tied system to include batteries and meet the requirements of your local utility and the MicroFit program. In order to be considered safe, these systems would have to isolate the home from the grid in the event of a power outage. This is because electric utilities require that independent power producers be unable to send out dangerous voltage in instances when the grid is de-energized. Such voltage can be hazardous to line workers. Design and installation of such systems are more complex and require a higher degree of monitoring and maintenance. Dynamic Solar Tech has installed these systems and can design one for your building.

How big are the panels? How much space is required on my roof?

Current standard PV modules for grid-tied applications are 220-300 watts. These panels are approximately 3.5′ x 5′ in size and weigh approximately 40lbs apiece. Every kilowatt of generation will require about 65-80 square feet of roof space for flush mounted systems (pitched roofs). For a grid-tie system, the amount of space that a PV system requires is dependent on the availability of the solar resource and the client’s budget. For an off-grid system, it is dependent on these factors as well as the required generation.

How is positioning of the panels determined?

Photovoltaic panels are sensitive to orientation, as well as tilt, shading and temperature. The optimum orientation (called azimuth) is true south, with SE to SW being perfectly acceptable — the further east or west from true south the lower the power production. The best tilt angle for the panels is approximately equal to the latitude of your location minus about 10 degrees, about 35 degrees for Southern Ontario. For summer cottages, the panels should be tilted lower (20 degrees) and for winter applications they should be tilted higher (60 degrees) to shed snow and capture the lower sun. Panels can be flush mounted to roofs or raised off the roof with racking. Racking can achieve the optimum angle and allows airflow to cool the panels, increasing efficiency. Racking can also be variable, allowing a homeowner to change the angle of the panels with the season, however this increases maintenance and installation costs. Ground-mounts are also an option with or without tracking systems. Shading is big concern for PV systems. These types of issues can be managed with string layout design or a micro-inverter or DC optimizer strategy that isolates the shading effect.

Can I install a solar electric system myself?

Self-installation of grid-connected solar electric systems is possible but will require the services of an electrical contractor for grid connection. We do not, however, recommend this option to the general public. Only qualified personnel should design, install and connect a high voltage PV system to the grid. Off-grid systems are slightly different in that they have batteries. Smaller systems can be self-installed with appropriate electrical skills, knowledge, caution, planning and preparation, however we recommend the help of experienced solar installers for any installation.

What is BIPV (Building-integrated Photovoltaic)?

Building-integrated Photovoltaic or BIPV is photovoltaic material that is used as building products. Solar shingles are a good example, or skylights and windows that have PV cells encapsulated within. The major benefits of BIPV are aesthetic electricity generation, and savings in building material that would otherwise have been used.

How much do PV systems cost?

Installation costs are measured in dollars per watt. The price guidelines below are for a turn-key PV system which includes labour, taxes, permits, hardware, product and equipment required to connect your PV system to the grid under the MicroFIT program. Please note the cost per watt drops as the system size increases. This is because the same start-up and fixed costs, such as building permits, connection equipment and fees and engineering costs, apply to all systems. As a result, greater cost efficiency is achieved with larger arrays.

3-5 kilowatts DC $5.25 to $6.50 per watt
5-8 kilowatts DC $4.50 to $5.50 per watt?
8-10 kilowatts DC $4.15 to $4.75 per watt

Options within system design include: micro-inverters or maximizers, monitoring options, flashing options and warranty extensions.
These estimates are based on flush racking on an asphalt roof with 240 to 250W modules and central string inverters.
Note: For an off-grid system, pricing would be approximately 20-30% higher to include batteries. System size typically depends on loads required to be run.

 

Glossary of Terms

  • AC Power – (Alternating current) Is the type of power that you use in your home.
  • Ballast-mount – Is a type of solar racking that is generally mounted on flat roofs. The mounts are held on the roof using something heavy (a ballast) to hold the system in place.
  • BIPV System – (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) is a type of Solar PV system where the PV material is integrated into or replaces a part of the building envelope. For example: solar shingles or solar PV cladding.
  • DC Power – (Direct Current) Is the type of power that solar panels generate (batteries are another source of DC power).
  • FiT – Feed-in Tariff – Ontario’s incentive program for renewable energy systems that generate more than 10kW of power.
  • Flush-mount – Is a type of solar racking that allows the panels to be mounted flush to the slope of a roof.
  • Inverter – This is a device that converts DC power into AC power. In Other words it will convert the power that the solar panels generate (DC) into power that is used in the home (AC).
  • kW – (Kilowatt or kW) A unit of power equal to 1000 watts. A watt is the rate at which energy is generated or consumed.
  • kWh – (Kilowatt Hour) A unit of energy equal to 1000 watt-hours. A watt-hour is the way to measure the amount of power that is consumed over a period of time. For example, 1 kWh is equal to using a 1000 watt appliance such as a clothes dryer for 1 hour.
  • LDC – (Local Distribution Company) This is the local power (hydro) company that covers your area.
  • LEED –  Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized green building certification system that ranks buildings based on categories such as construction, design, sustainability, environmental impact and energy management.
  • MicroFiT – Micro Feed-in Tariff Ontario’s incentive program for renewable energy systems that generate less than 10kW of power.
  • Microinverter – This is a smaller inverter that is mounted to the back of each solar panel optimizing the performance of each panel and provides monitoring for each panel’s performance.
  • Net-metering – Is a way to connect your solar panels to your house’s electrical panel to offset the energy usage in the home.
  • Off-grid Solar – Your solar energy system is not connected to the local power grid and the energy generated is stored in batteries.
  • On-grid Solar PV System – This means that your Solar PV system is connected to the local power grid and the energy that is generated is distributed through the grid.
  • Passive Solar – Is a way to gather energy from the sun without using equipment to convert the energy. For example using sunlight as a primary (or only) source of lighting when available or south facing windows that allow sunlight penetration to heat a home in the winter.
  • Solar PV: (Solar Photovoltaic) – Is a type of energy that is generated by collecting sunlight with panels that convert the light into electricity.
  • Solar Thermal – Is a way to capture heat from the sun using panels that absorb heat and transfer it. For example solar thermal panels can be used to heat a swimming pool or for domestic hot water use or they can be used to heat air.
  • Tracker – Is a type of system that solar panels can be mounted to so that they can follow or “track” the sun throughout the day to gather more energy.
  • Watt – A watt is a unit used to measure electrical power



If you have any further questions or would like a free quote contact us at 1-800-552-5042 or info@dynamicsolartech.com or with the form to the right. If you’d like to sign up through us for the OPA’s MicroFiT program click Dynamic Solar Tech MicroFiT Application Form and follow the instructions.

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