Learn about using solar energy in B.C.
Solar energy is an alternative energy that can be used to help power your home or business.
If you’re starting to think about installing a solar generation system, get to know the important considerations around the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in B.C.
Costs of installing solar panels
The cost of installing a solar PV system for electricity generation has dropped dramatically in recent years. Technology has continually improved, and today’s more efficient systems yield a higher power output.
Previously, it would take homeowners at least 20 years to recoup the investment through the electrical load offset at today’s average electricity rates. Today, at an average of $2.50 per watt, the typical payback period for a homeowner in Victoria is about 17 years.
Incentives for solar power systems in B.C.
To help shorten the payback, there are solar incentives up to $5,000 available through the Greener Homes Grant from Natural Resources Canada. The same program also offers interest-free loans up to $40,000 for major for home efficiency projects, including solar power systems.
Overview of solar PV systems
Solar PV systems are comprised mainly of solar panels, inverters, breakers and mounting equipment. A solar panel generates power by converting sunlight to direct current electricity.
Inverters are then used to convert the direct current electricity into alternating current electricity to be used in your home.
How much power will a solar PV system generate in B.C.?
A typical solar PV installation on a residential roof is seven kilowatts (kW) in size with 16 solar panels, which in B.C., generates 7,700 kWh of electricity over a year.
The average household uses approximately 10,000 kWh per year, though this varies significantly based on a home’s heating type, size and other factors. Log in to MyHydro to understand your home’s usage to see how a solar installation would support your electricity needs.
And long term, consider an industry average solar panel lifespan of about 25 years and an efficiency degradation rate of about 0.5% per year.
Types of solar PV systems
Grid-tied solar systems feed alternating current electricity directly to the local grid.
- In B.C., a 1kW solar PV array would require about seven to eight square metres of south facing free space. A professional systems installer can help you estimate the solar potential of your home.
- Before installing a solar system on your home’s roof, consider your roof’s current condition and if rework is needed anytime in the near future.
- Installing a solar PV system can be complicated, especially for roof-mounted systems. Solar panels are essentially made of glass and need to be handled with care. Mounting solar panels on your roof should be done by a roof system professional to ensure that no damage is done to the building’s existing weather proofing.
- Connecting a solar PV system to the grid requires complex electrical connections which need to be approved by BC Hydro. Hiring a professional solar PV system installer will help ensure that all necessary permits are obtained and that all safety measures are in place before the system is energized.
Off-grid solar systems store direct current electricity in batteries for later use. In B.C. they’re used in remote locations where there’s no grid to tie into for power.
- Off-grid systems are more expensive due to the added costs of the battery banks and charge controllers.
- Battery banks are one of the highest lifecycle costs of an off-grid solar PV system as they require regular maintenance and/or replacement to ensure optimum system performance and longevity.
- Depending on the type used, batteries have a lifespan of up to 10 years. Speak with a professional to understand battery options for your specific application.
- Off-grid systems need to be sized appropriately to ensure that the battery banks are being used at maximum capacity throughout the year.
- Consider hybrid solar PV/diesel generator systems for remote locations to ensure an adequately sized solar PV system and reliable power even during long periods of cloudy weather conditions.
Connecting to BC Hydro’s grid with net metering
Any grid-tied solar systems must be approved by BC Hydro before installation to ensure safety and effective operation.
If you’re interested in connecting a small (less than 100 kW) electricity generation system to our grid, learn more about net metering options for residential and commercial customers.
For systems larger than 100 kW, learn about distribution generator interconnections.