You have probably heard the myth that solar panel does not work well in Alberta and you are wondering if it is true.
This misconception has been spread by people who have guessed how solar works and who do not understand the true costs and benefits of solar power.
So you have a dilemma about whether you should install a solar panel system for your Alberta home or not!
You might be looking for an expert company who will clear up all your confusion and provide you with current, relevant facts.
Continue reading through this article and you will be able to find out why investing in solar panels on your Alberta home or business is worth it.
Is Alberta’s geographical location a good fit for installing solar panels?
Let’s talk about sunshine first.
If you’re anxious about having enough sunlight, you can rest easy. Because in parts of Alberta, the sun shines up to 320 days per year. With this considerable solar potential, your Alberta solar system can produce 1000 kWh- 1500 kWh of energy per year for each kW of solar power installed.
Alberta is a very solar-friendly province with a great solar micro generation program and the potential to produce a lot of energy. 50% of the days remain sunny based on the daylight hours. Summer days are long, with up to 18 hours of daylight each day in June. Winter has bright sunlight as well, but daylight hours reduce to 8 hours a day in December.
All in, you will receive approximately 1500- 2500 hours of sunlight each year.
Alberta is in the climate zone 7. Alberta’s location is in between 49 to 60-degree latitude. Typically, 5000C Heating Degree Days (HDD) and 33C Cooling Degree Days (CDD) are available in Alberta per year.
In summer, the temperature may rise to 30C or higher. The average summer temperature hovers around 18 C. But when it is winter, the temperature can go as low as -30C that causes snow to fall. The average winter temperature is around -11C.
Now, you must be thinking about whether it makes any sense to install a home solar panel in a cold zone! Well, let me tell you. It does make sense! Because in winter, your solar panel will perform better than in hot climates.
Why so? Your solar panels will produce more voltage and electricity in cold weather. The efficiency actually increases when the temperature drops. At -25°C, solar panel efficiency is substantially higher than at +45°C.
However, this does not imply that your solar panel can produce more energy in the winter than in the summer. Because electricity generation is also dependent on sunlight rather than just temperature. Since we have fewer hours of sunlight in the winter, the average solar energy will still be lower than in summer.
Concerned about snowy conditions? If yes, then let me tell you that you should not.
Snow will not create an adverse impact on solar panels since the majority of the total yearly sunshine (solar irradiance) falls between March and October. During this time of year, Alberta experiences minimal snow.
When it snows lightly in Alberta, snow will just slide off the slick surface of your pitched roof-mounted solar panels. Besides, your solar panels will melt the snow off at a faster rate than the shingle around it. This happens because solar panels function at temperatures higher than ambient temperatures.
When it snows heavily in Alberta, snow will limit solar energy. How much loss will you face?
An experiment conducted by the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) has discovered that about 4-6% of yearly production is lost due to heavy snow on typical roof angles. The loss may increase by up to 10% depending on winter levels or panel angles.
But this loss will not affect your yearly production due to the Net Metering system in Alberta. This finding demonstrates that snow has no significant impact on the production or feasibility of solar projects in Alberta.
If you are thinking about your solar panel’s efficiency on rainy days and hails, you need not worry. Rain will boost the panel’s efficiency by cleaning accumulated dirt and particles from the panel.
Although hail is a powerful physical force, solar panels are well-equipped to survive hits from huge hailstones.
If your panel is mounted towards the south at an angle of 18 to 45 degrees, it will deflect the hail’s natural path. Installing panels facing 10 degrees south, on the other hand, puts you at a larger risk of hail damage. They will, however, withstand the majority of hail storms that Alberta can throw at them.
In most cases, the manufacturer tests and certifies that solar panels can withstand a hail of up to 25 mm (1 inch) in diameter, dropping at a speed of 23 meters per second (approximately 50 miles per hour).
How much does a solar system cost to install in Alberta?
The installation price depends on the size of your solar system, the difficulty of the task, the kind of equipment you use, and even on the installation company’s quality.
How will you determine the size of your solar system? To do this, you need to know your annual energy usage. The average Alberta home consumes 7,200 kWh per year.
If you live in a Northern Alberta community such as Grande Prairie, Peace River, or Fort McMurray your south facing solar array will produce around 1000 kWh per year for each 1 kW of solar installed.
Depending on the average Alberta home usage, if your energy consumption is 7200 kWh per year, then you will need a 7.2 kW grid-tied solar system to become net zero.
If you live in Southern Alberta near Medicine Hat or Lethbridge, you can expect your solar system to produce around 20% more annual energy and you would only require a 6 kW grid connected solar array to produce this same amount of annual energy.
Your solar contractor will determine the final size of your photovoltaic array by considering additional affects such as shading from trees/buildings, roof tilt, and azimuth.
The cost also depends on the physical size of the system. You may have to mount your solar panel either on your roof or on the ground depending on the amount of space you have available.
The physical size of your required solar array depends on a few factors that your solar advisor will assist you with. However, an average solar module array will cover around 430 square feet.
An average solar panel is 300 watts and covers around 18 square feet. If your home requires a 7.2 kW (7200 watt) solar system, then it would require 24- 300 watt solar modules mounted facing south. 24 solar panels multiplied by 18 sq ft each gives you a total array size of 432 sq ft.
If you plan to install solar panels on your roof, you should be aware of the following facts:
- The ultimate roof has a 4:12 to 12:12 pitch south-facing. Otherwise, there will be a minor loss of energy. But other roof tilts still work well.
In Alberta, the average residence has a pitch of 4:12 or around 18 degrees which works very well for flush mounted solar. The array will follow the angle of the roof and is installed on racking about 3 inches up from the roof to allow air flow under the panels.
Both east and west facing homes are fine too. Although some energy is wasted, your solar panel system can still be sized to produce 100% of your annual needs. North facing roofs even work with solar but will produce a bit less energy. So you need to decide if it is still a good investment in your case.
- Since the panels have a 25-years guarantee, you might need to change your shingles (or entire roof) before placing solar panels.
It is a good idea to ensure that your roofing has at least ten years of life remaining before installing the system or you want to upgrade your roofing first. Once solar covers the shingles it protects them and keeps them almost like new. However, around the sides of the solar the exposed shingles will still continue to age.
If you plan to mount solar panels on the ground, you should be aware of the following facts:
- In some cases you may have to pay more for ground-mounted solar systems due to the additional cost of racking, foundations, and trenching of cables.
- A big benefit of ground mounted solar is that you can avoid shading and place the system in the appropriate direction. The system is more efficient, and the lifetime is long. Some people like to clear snow off their panels in winter too to gain extra 5% of annual energy production.
In Alberta, the cost for residential solar per installed watt varies from $2.00/watt – $3.00/watt. Average value $2.50/watt.
So, to install a 7.2 kW grid-tied solar system in your Alberta home it would cost around $18,000. This typically includes all of the products, permits, engineering, and labour required.
Costs may increase or decrease depending on the complexity of the roof, access requirements, local permitting requirements, as well as other factors. Your experienced solar contractor will provide you with your detailed quote specific to your property.
As we found earlier, a 7.2 kW solar system is required for a usual home. Depending on tilt and azimuth, you will need around 24 solar panels providing 300 W each.
Is the money spent on solar panels in your Alberta home worth it?
If you install a solar system in your Alberta home, you will be able to save a large amount of money each year and even get a return on your investment. But how? Let’s see.
The solar panel payback period is a calculation that determines how long it will take for your solar energy investment to pay off.
Taking the previous example,
Your investment = $18,000. The estimated gross cost of electricity in Alberta is $0.07/kWh. There are also transmission distribution charges that vary depending on your area but can be upwards of $0.11/kWh.
Based on a monthly consumption of 600 kWh you will currently be spending around $108 per month plus admin, rate riders, GST, and municipal fees.
Your solar system will generate 7200 kWh per year which averages to 600 kWh per month. This will save you $42 per month in just energy fees, and the more energy you use when the sun shines the less transmission/distribution you pay.
For example, if you consume 30% of your annual energy when the sun is shining the power can come directly from your solar panels which provides an additional savings of $20 per month.
While grid-tied solar will not eliminate your electricity bill, it is a much better investment than paying your power bill and never receiving a return on your investment.
We also need to understand that the cost of electricity continues to rise. We suggest using a conservative energy cost escalation like 5% (this is estimating that the price of power will be $0.23/kWh in 25 years from now).
With this knowledge we can calculate that a homeowner will spend the same amount of money on this energy at about eight years whether or not you go solar. This is the average break-even point if you invest in solar.
With grid power you spend this money with no return; with solar the system will not only pay itself off, but it will also save you an estimated $80,000 beyond your investment cost! That is just within the 25-year warranty of your solar modules.
The figure below shows cumulative energy cost reduction with solar and cost increment without solar over 25 years.
Return on Investment (ROI):
Return on investment (ROI) is a performance metric used to assess the efficiency or profitability of an investment.
If your solar installer delivers you high-quality equipment, your investment will be protected for the next 25 years and beyond.
The basic formula for ROI is:
ROI = Gain from Investment ($98,000) – Cost of Investment ($18,000) ÷ Cost of Investment ($18,000) x 100
ROI = 444%
Annualized ROI = 7.01%
By investing $18,000 you can gain an Annual Return on Investment of 7% (based on your estimated energy savings).
Think about it!
Solar panel installation in Alberta is definitely worth it! Also with solar energy you are less likely to be influenced by variations in traditional power rates.
What kind of incentives can you expect in Alberta?
If you install a solar system in Alberta, you may be eligible to get incentives. Alberta offers a lot of amazing solar PV incentives.
The Federal Greener Homes Grant is now providing up to $5,000 for residential solar projects across Canada!
School Solar Program:
Schools in Alberta, planning for solar installations, are extremely fortunate. Schools serving students from kindergarten to 12th grade in Alberta are eligible for this incentive. Depending on the total installed solar system capacity, schools will receive rebates from $1/watt to $1.5/ watt.
If you are planning to mount a solar system of 10 kW in school, you will get an incentive of $1.5/watt. The rebate amount will be reduced with the installation size. For example, 2 to 5 MW solar system installation will receive $1/watt.
Municipalities who wish to install solar PV systems are eligible to apply for incentives under the Municipal Program. Rebates are available for up to 30% of the installation cost. Municipalities will get refunds ranging from $0.55/watt for 2- 5 MW to $0.90/watt for less than 10 kW installation size.
A $0.25/Watt bonus is also available to first-time registrants. Being a municipality in Alberta, you can apply for rebates multiple times. But the incentives are limited to $1.5 million with bonuses.
Residential PV Incentive for Edmonton City:
If you are a resident of Edmonton, then you are eligible for $0.40/Watt subsidies on solar panels placed on your homes. The city is also offering rebates for electric vehicle charging stations. The application deadline is May 31, 2021.
Banff Town Solar PV Production Incentive:
If you are a resident of Banff are eligible for $0.75/Watt subsidies for 2kW to7.5 kW on solar panels placed on your homes or offices. A 2 kW solar system is the bare minimum for installation. You can only apply once per property.
Medicine Hat Solar rebate:
If you reside in Medicine Hat, it is high time you put a solar PV system on your roof. To reduce your installation cost, you will be given a subsidy of $1.00 per watt, up to a maximum of $6,000 in rebates by the city’s incentive program.
Canmore Solar Incentive:
Canmore residents will receive an incentive of $1,250. For rebates, the minimum installation size is 2.5kW. If you are an Equs customer, you will get an incentive of $0.10/Watt up to a maximum of $500.
Alberta is one of the best provinces in terms of sunshine, cash incentives, and installation costs. Alberta was recently ranked third in the country for installing the solar system. If you invest money in installing solar systems in Alberta, you will not be outwitted. Installing solar panels in your Alberta home or office will secure your investment and even pay you off.
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