Growing number of B.C. homes go solar, and hook up to the electrical grid
Are you interested in generating your own electricity to power your home? Perhaps you thought about installing solar panels on your roof to offset your electricity use, and selling your extra energy back to BC Hydro.
There are lots of factors to consider before starting a project like this, so take a few minutes to learn the basics.
Consider the cost of panels and installation
Many assume that Canada doesn’t get enough sunlight to justify the cost of installing solar panels. However, solar panels can still generate electricity on cloudy days.
While not every location in B.C. gets the same amount of sun, the average amount of sunlight across B.C. is higher than in a country like Germany, which has been gone big with solar energy as a means of trying to reduce its reliance on carbon-producing coal power.
Did you know that in B.C., a 1 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system, south facing and tilted with no shading, will generate about 1,100 kWh per year? That’s about 30,000 kWh over its 25-year lifetime, and the life expectancy of solar panels is improving as technology advances. The 25-year life expectancy takes into account an industry average solar panel efficiency degradation rate of 0.5% per year.
However, at a total installation cost of about $4,000 per kW (the larger the system, the cheaper it is per kW), it would take you over 25 years to recoup your investment at today’s average electricity rates.
How to connect to BC Hydro’s electrical system
If you’re interested in generating your own electricity, our net metering program has options for both residential and commercial customers. In B.C., 700 customers are already participating.
If you meet program criteria, you can apply to connect a small electricity generating system to the BC Hydro distribution system. Keep in mind that it’s a requirement of the Canadian Electrical code to seek authorization from a utility before connecting any generation to the grid.
Generating units can be up to a maximum capacity of 100 kilowatts (which is about 400 solar panels) and must use a clean or renewable resource to be eligible to participate in the program. Renewable sources include hydroelectric, biogas and wind, but the vast majority of participants in B.C. are using solar photovoltaic (PV) generation.
As a net metering customer with a smart meter, electricity can flow to or from your house, and the meter registers what’s going on in both directions. When you generate more electricity than you use, you receive a credit to your account that is applied against your future electricity use. At your annual anniversary date, if you have an excess generation credit remaining on your account, we will pay you at a rate of 9.99 cents per kWh.
Who’s eligible, and how can you apply?
To find out more about the requirements needed to apply to connect to the BC Hydro grid, see our net metering section on bchydro.com.
Kathryn MacDonald is a member of BC Hydro’s community team.