FAQ

Photovoltaic System Types

How do grid tied systems work?

Residential Grid Tied Solar Electric Systems

Residential - How Does It Work

  1. Solar panels are typically installed on the roof of the home and/or garage. These photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power.
  2. The inverter(s) convert DC electricity from the solar array to the AC electricity found in the building.
  3. The inverter feeds electricity into the electrical distribution system.
  4. The bidirectional meter which is supplied free of charge by the utility, keeps track of both the energy imported from the grid and the energy exported to the grid. Savings and export credits are reflected on your electricity bill.
  5. If you own an electric car, you can charge it up with solar power generated on your own home.
  6. Your home remains connected to the utility grid to supply you with electricity when you need more power than your system is producing, such as at night.

Commercial Grid Tied Solar Electric Systems

Commercial - How Does It Work

  1. Photovoltaic (PV) modules convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power.
  2. The inverter(s) convert DC electricity from the solar array to the AC electricity found in the building.
  3. The inverter feeds electricity into the electrical distribution system.
  4. The bidirectional meter which is supplied free of charge by the utility, keeps track of both the energy imported from the grid and the energy exported to the grid. Savings and export credits are reflected on your electricity bill.

Government Incentives

Are there any government incentives available?

Alberta

Currently, small Micro Generation producers in Alberta will automatically receive credit which is equivalent to their current electricity rate, for surplus electricity generated and exported to the grid. For instance, if you are currently paying 8 cents/kWh for your electricity, you will also receive 8 cents/kWh for any excess solar energy that is fed back to the grid from your PV system. The bidirectional meter which is supplied free of charge by your Wire Services Provider, keeps track of both the energy imported from the grid and the energy exported to the grid. These meter reads are processed on a monthly basis and any excess solar energy supplied to the grid will show up as a credit on your monthly electricity bill. Terms of reference are defined within the Alberta Micro-generation Regulation. Furthermore, if you decide to sign up as a SPARK Certified Green Generator, you could receive 1.85 ¢/kWh for the renewable energy attributes of your exported energy, in addition to the credit that micro-generators currently receive for the sale of their exported electricity. For more information about the SPARK Green Offset Program and how to sign up as a SPARK Certified Green Generator, please click here.

Alberta Municipal Solar Program

The Alberta Municipal Solar Program will provide rebates of up to $0.75 per watt to municipalities for installing solar on municipal buildings, such as offices, fire halls, community centres and more. Projects up to 1MW of installed capacity will receive the full AMSP rebate. For example, a 1MW project will be eligible for a rebate of up $450,000 (rebates cannot exceed 20% of eligible expenses). The Alberta Municipal Solar Program started accepting applications on March 1, 2016. To recognize and incentivize early action, the MCCAC will provide a $0.15/watt bonus to all participants who have completed a successful application (signed Funding Agreement) prior to February 1, 2017.

Growing Forward 2 – On-Farm Solar Management Program

The Growing Forward solar program for agricultural producers will provide provincial and federal funding towards solar energy systems on Alberta farms. This program will help producers generate their own electricity and save on energy costs while reducing their carbon emissions. Grants are calculated based on an eligible system’s nominal wattage, up to a maximum percentage of system cost. Third-party contractor-installed systems are funded at a higher rate than self-installed systems. A maximum of 100 kW of solar PV capacity or $50,000 per applicant is available through the program. The On-Farm Solar Management program’s application window opened on February 8, 2016.

Alberta Indigenous Solar Program

The Alberta Indigenous Solar Program (AISP) is a pilot program that provides grants to Alberta Indigenous communities or organization to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on facilities owned by the community or organization. AISP provides funding for up to 60% of eligible expenses up to a maximum of $200,000 per project. Applicants can access other non-Government of Alberta funded programs to cover the remaining 40% of the project costs. The maximum funding stacking level is 100% of eligible costs.

Banff Solar PV Incentive Program

The Town of Banff has launched a new solar PV incentive program, which provides residential and commercial property owners with the opportunity to pay off their solar PV system within 7 years. Click here for more information.

Northwest Territories

Small Renewable Energy Fund – residential property/buildings/assets to reduce fuel use:

  • Grant of one third of system costs up to $5,000/year. Click here for more information.

Medium Renewable Energy Fund – commercial businesses (on or off-grid) to reduce fuel use:

  • Grant of one third of system costs up to $15,000/year. Click here for more information.

Community Renewable Energy Fund – governments, departments, boards, agencies, non-profits:

  • Grant of up to 50% of system cost up to $50,000/year. Click here for more information.

Saskatchewan

Net Metering Rebate (Extended until November 30 2016):

  • Offers a one-time rebate, equivalent to 20 per cent of eligible costs to a maximum payment of $20,000.
  • Covers eligible costs that include capital and installation costs for the energy production meter, identified separately on the invoice; and capital and installation costs for the renewable power generation equipment.
  • Available to SaskPower, Saskatoon Light & Power and City of Swift Current electricity customers.
  • More information here

Manitoba

Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart Solar Energy Program is available to all residential, commercial, and industrial customers, under the following conditions:

  • you will receive $1 per watt installed (as per the DC rating of the solar PV system);
  • your system size is minimum 1 kW, maximum 200 kW;
  • your incentive will be limited by the annual load displacement requirement of the site;
  • the incentive is paid at the end of the project, once the PV system is installed and passes inspection.

Click here for more information.

Federal

Section 43.2 Tax Incentives (commercial projects only):

  • A 50% accelerated CCA is provided under Class 43.2 of Schedule II to the Income Tax Regulations for specified clean energy generation equipment. Eligible equipment includes solar thermal, solar air and solar photovoltaic equipment while project size restrictions have been eliminated. Depreciation of the solar asset can only be applied to solar revenues unless the business is involved in manufacturing or processing, mining or the sale, distribution or production of energy of any kind.
  • For more information please click here or  contact us.

Keep in mind that incentive programs can change quickly and the information above may not always be completely up to date. Please contact SkyFire Energy for the most up to date information.

Planning

What is involved in a solar site assessment?

A detailed and comprehensive solar site assessment is a necessary component for any solar electric installation. A typical site assessment includes the following:

  • Accurate measurements of roof or ground space including locations of plumbing stacks, chimneys, skylights, attic vents, etc
  • Shading analysis from proposed location for solar (sometimes several points need to be analysed to determine the best location) – this data is used to provide accurate energy production estimates
  • Discussion with home or business owner to determine route of cable from site of solar electric array to location of inverter/mains panel
  • Determine location of inverter(s) and integration in to the building’s electrical system.

SkyFire will provide preliminary ballpark cost, energy production, and an economic analysis specific to your home/building through email as a first step. We would be pleased to provide a free and comprehensive site assessment after this initial step. For new construction residential and commercial projects, SkyFire can provide a design and quote directly from the drawings for the building. – Contact us to get started today!

get an assesment

What is the residential solar installation process like from start to finish?

Making the decision to switch to solar is an awesome one. However, getting started and understanding the process can often be fraught with uncertainty for those unfamiliar with the industry. SkyFire Energy provides turnkey systems and takes care of all of the permitting, grid connection application, etc. Here is a list of the steps for a typical residential installation:

  1. Initial estimate – If high quality satellite images are available, we can provide accurate estimates for system size and energy production for your specific house.
  2. Site assessment – We visit the site to obtain detailed site specific information required for a solar installation including detailed roof measurements, electrical capacity of your electrical system and a shading analysis (if required). For a new construction home, SkyFire can design a system right from the architectural drawings.
  3. System design & quote – SkyFire will design a system specific to your roof space, budget and electricity needs. This is an iterative process and multiple options can be presented. SkyFire provides you with a sketch showing what your home will look like with solar on the roof as well as an economic analysis.
  4. Permitting and grid connection application – SkyFire takes care of ALL the permitting required (Electrical, Building and/or Development permits) and the application to connect the system to the grid.
  5. Installation and commissioning – By our highly trained and experienced installation crews.
  6. Final walk through with the homeowner and delivery of system manuals

installation-proces It’s that easy! Contact us today to get started.

Solar Performance in Canada

How does Canada’s solar potential compare globally?

Canada may not be your top choice for a tropical destination, but luckily for us warm weather actually has very little to do with our ability to generate solar power! Surprising to many, latitude has only a small effect on solar production. For example, a solar PV system located in Calgary will produce approximately the same amount of energy on an annual basis as that same system in Miami, Florida. Calgary receives lots of sun all year round and solar PV modules actually produce more energy when they are cold!Canada also compares extremely well when comparing production potential of leading solar industry countries. For example, Alberta’s solar resource is significantly better than Germany’s (up to 50% more) despite the Germans leading the solar industry globally! canada-solar Additionally, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver all rank higher in yearly photovoltaic (PV) potential than Berlin. Calgary even has higher solar potential than Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Rome, Italy Even remote areas of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon rate high in yearly PV potential. A solar PV system designed and installed by SkyFire in Fort Simpson, NT has produced ~980 kWh/kW in the year since its installation – that’s more than the PV potential of cities such as Tokyo, Paris and London! These examples illustrate the importance of investment in Canada’s solar energy resource in the years to come. Data and images: CanSIA and Natural Resources Canada

What happens when it snows?

Canadian winters are synonymous with snow so it is important that consideration be given for the effects of snow on winter and year round energy production from solar electric and solar thermal systems. Although clearing the snow from a solar array can help you squeeze a few more kiloWatt-hours (kWh) from your solar PV system, this blog entry will hopefully prove to you that this isn’t worth the hassle or the risk! We do not recommend that any of our customers get up on their roof to clear the solar modules (panels) of snow during the winter months – this is extremely dangerous and not necessary.With a grid-connected solar electric system, the total annual energy production from the system is most important. The majority of the energy produced by a solar electric system in Canada is produced from March to October. Lost energy production due to snow during the darker months of November to February is not as important. With all that said, solar electric and solar thermal systems will actually clear themselves of snow! There are a number of factors that affect when and how quickly this will happen such as:

  • ambient temperature – the warmer the better
  • amount of sunlight (insolation) – the snow isn’t usually cleared on a cloudy day but the energy production from a cloudy winters day is negligible anyways
  • angle and orientation of the solar array – the steeper the angle, the quicker the snow clears; facing directly South or slightly West of South helps with snow clearing
  • solar module backing colour (dark or black modules will get hotter) – black solar modules might clear snow faster but solar modules actually produce less energy when hot, more when they are cold so their are tradeoffs here
  • How much snow is on the modules – thesun can penetrate a couple of inches of snow to heat up the modules but penetrating through 6 inches of snow or more is less likely – a big dump of snow might stick to the modules until the wind blows some of it off or until warmer weather moves in

To help illustrate this point, we recorded a time lapse video showing the snow clear from our Calgary office’s solar array after a snow storm blew through. The roughly 6cm of snow was cleared by 2:30pm the day after the snow storm.

The solar array in this case is at 35 degrees, which is a good angle for year round production while limiting the ‘sail’ affect and structural concerns of a more upright solar array. This system uses Enphase Energy microinverters which allow for energy monitoring of each individual module. We can see the effect of the snow cover on the bottom of the solar array reflected online. The photo and the monitoring screen shot both show conditions at 1:15pm the day after the blizzard: snolapse-sfe snolapse-enphase

Will my solar panels stand up to hail?

The simple answer is “YES”. A solar module or panel that is installed properly and tilted to face South should never break from hail. Up until a couple weeks ago we would tell people, “we’ve never seen or heard of a solar module (panel) being damaged from hail”. That includes many hail storms over the years (we have had solar panels installed in Alberta since 2001), many of them bringing golf ball sized hail or larger.In fact, we sometimes need to remove (and later re-install) an intact solar system so roofers can re-shingle a roof that was destroyed by hail! Luckily this is always covered by the insurance company. If that’s not enough proof that the panels can stand up to hail check out this cool video:

Well, that being said, we learned that solar panels are not 100% safe when tennis ball and baseball sized hail hit a Southern Alberta town called Cardston. We do know of one solar PV system in Cardston that had broken panels from the hail storm. Then again, virtually everything in Cardston was damaged or destroyed by hail, including a report that half the vehicles at the dealership in town were damaged so bad that they had to be completely written off! The solar panels in this case were mounted flat by the homeowner and not tilted South. Had they been tilted South, they likely would have survived indirect strikes of hail from the NW. The module’s (panels) tempered glass is typically rated for 1″ hail at 55 mph.

Photo: Ben Wright
Photo: Ben Wright

So, should you still put solar on your roof, YES, of course! In the absolute worst case, if your house gets pummeled by basebell sized hail, the solar modules, the rest of the house (shingles, siding, skylights, windows, eaves, etc.) and your vehicle glass and body will all be covered by insurance. Just make sure to add the solar system to your insurance policy, typically there is no additional fee for this, and if there is a fee it will likely be in the range of $20/year for most systems. And the winner is… Solar!

How does the angle of a solar array affect performance?

The more perpendicular to the Sun’s rays a solar module is, the greater the output. Having your modules face directly South (Azimuth = 0) and at a 45 degree tilt from the horizontal is ideal in Calgary. As we can see, the overall effect of deviating from the ideal is not altogether significant. performance-3d-geometry

Certifications & Associations

APEGA CanSIA Solar Energy Society of Alberta Amicus Solar Cooperative

Contact Us

Locations

CALGARY

4038 - 7th Street SE
Calgary AB T2G 2Y8

Phone: (403) 251-0668

EDMONTON

14515 121A Ave NW
Edmonton AB T5L 2T2

Phone (780) 474-8992

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