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Anyone in Canada have solar panels?

Discussion in 'Canada' started by wayner, Sep 1, 2015.

  1. wayner

    wayner Active Member

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  2. Electric700

    Electric700 Member

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    It's fine with me, and I think the other thread you linked to sets a good precedent.
     
  3. iKhalid

    iKhalid Member

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    I'm really interested in this topic. I was planning to get Solar panels once I move to a single house in Ottawa, but that's pushed for a year or two for now since I have to be in the GTA for the time being...
    If anyone got a rooftop solar panels in Canada, please share your experience.
     
  4. wayner

    wayner Active Member

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    Anyone here have solar panels?

    This summer I had solar panels installed as part of Ontario's MicroFIT program. Everything was just hooked up and turned on this past Saturday, so I am now in the electricity generation business. Ontario's MicroFIT program allows homeowners to sell the renewable energy that they generate back to the grid at $0.384/kWh for twenty years. So I have a second electrical meter outside my house that tracks the power that I send back to the grid. I am not able to use the energy I produce but why would I want to (except when the grid is down) when the highest price that I pay for electricity is about $0.21. I should be able to earn about $4500/year in revenue from my panels and the upfront cost was roughly $35,000 (I think - I will have to look it up).

    But this raises a bunch of questions that are specific to Canada, and potentially Ontario as they relate to financial and tax issues.

    If you had solar panels installed did you claim a GST/HST input tax credit? On CRA's web site there is a doc that says:
    So has anyone gone about doing this? Any advice?

    Anyone had any issues around their home insurance? I have seen on a blog that someone said that Allstate refused to cover them after they installed solar panels.

    You have to pay tax on the revenue that you earn but this can be offset by depreciation (aka CCA), interest that you pay if you financed your solar panels and any other costs incurred. But it looks like you cannot create a loss from your business of producing electricity to offset other income. Anyone have any advice on that? Does it make sense to set up a corporation or a trust and have the solar panels held by that entity rather than you individually, especially if you are in the highest tax bracket of about 50%?

    Any other advice that anyone has on being in the power generation business?

    Edit - In case it isn't clear these are rooftop panels. And apparently the MicroFIT program is likely to change in the near future and move to net metering. That would likely reduce the financial attractiveness of installing panels unless they will stay pay you a premium for the electricity that you generate. So if you want to take advantage of the current rate of $0.384 you better get going and apply this year.
     
  5. iKhalid

    iKhalid Member

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    I just recalled that Peter from Ottawa posted once about some Solar investing opportunities. It might not be directly related, but I think it could be similar and he might be able to answer your questions.
     
  6. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    Is okay as long as it stays focused on Canadian solar installations and issues. Also merging with the other thread
     
  7. Jaff

    Jaff Active Member

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    Wayner, you probably should check with your home insurance company...as the CRA counts this venture as income producing, I would think your solar panels might be considered "business equipment"...most Homeowner's insurance policies put a very low limit ($3-$6,000) on business equipment...you may find you have to add an endorsement to your policy to cover $35,000 worth of solar panel "business" equipment...
     
  8. wayner

    wayner Active Member

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    I have contacted my insurance agent but they haven't gotten back to me. But the $35k amount isn't that large an amount given the price of detached homes in Toronto.
     
  9. wayner

    wayner Active Member

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  10. sitter_k

    sitter_k Member

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    Great post. Does anyone know what solar panels might do for houses resale value?
     
  11. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    Slightly changed the thread title, so people who just hit the "New Posts" button don't get confused. (Yes it's a thing.)
     
  12. wayner

    wayner Active Member

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    Here's a photo of my panels. There are 40 panels so each one must provide 250W since the total capacity is 10 kW - the maximum for microFIT. The other panels on the right are for my solar pool heating system. This side of my house faces to the SSE so it is very well aligned to maximize sun exposure. The panels are not visible at all from the street.


    DTPtKS9b1vPMZoivaudu3Gv2SC0tYn5cf1yeCp2Omy6Z=w1067-h800-no.jpg
     
  13. DMC-Orangeville

    DMC-Orangeville 85D and John Deere 5100E

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    I am in the electrical industry, and I sell lots of different equipment that is used for solar installations (combiner boxes, power cable, PV cable etc.) so I can comment on some of these things.

    1. You cannot use the power in "most" installations, as the inverter has a device in it that won't produce power if it doesn't see power on the grid. This helps protect the lineman who is trying to repair lines, transformers etc. Some systems can be designed to draw off power before the meter for owner's use, but it's much more expensive and uncommon.

    2. If you apply for a GST/HST number you can claim the HST on the installation as an input credit. I'm not sure about retroactive, You WILL have to charge HST, and file quarterly....

    3. Home insurance is tricky. A number of years ago, in the USA on the first major incident with a fire in a building with rooftop solar, during the day, the fire department would not go in the building/on the roof, as the solar array was live, and water is conductive. As such, a number of insurance companies are reluctant to insure rooftop solar dwellings. Also, in some instances, a combiner box has been wired incorrectly, causing arcing. Terminating a 600 volt DC arc is VERY difficult, and a number of rooftop fires have occurred in Canada.

    As such, the current Canadian Electrical code is calling for Arc Fault mitigation in all rooftop installations. In the 2015 code (which should be adopted around May 2016) also calls for a remote disconnect on all panels. All of these items make the system safer, but much more expensive.

    Fit may survive....or it could be net metering. We'll find out in the next 6 months or so.
     
  14. wayner

    wayner Active Member

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    I am not sure - it might be like a pool in that not everyone wants them. Some people think it is unsightly. The NPV of $4500/yr at 10% for 20 years is $38,300, at 5% it is $56,080 - but those numbers are ignoring taxes.

    - - - Updated - - -

    So from what you say if we go to Net Metering will it be a "virtual" net metering where you will deduct the power you produce from the power your consume, rather than an "actual" net metering where you will consume your own power thereby reducing your consumption from the grid?

    It seems to me it would make more sense to actually use your own power as it makes the system more redundant and reduce line losses.

    But if we do go to net metering then that kills the economics of an install since the "revenue" from the power you produce will fall in half, unless electricity rates go way up - but that won't happen since electrical power is a political football in Ontario. So that will pretty much be the end of solar panel installation except for off-grid applications.

    The only thing that could offset that is a large fall in the price of panels, but the weaker Canadian dollar hasn't helped that - not unlike Tesla cars!
     
  15. SmartElectric

    SmartElectric Active Member

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    I have a large array of solar pool heating panels on my ravine behind the pool, not on my roof.
    The array is larger than the surface area of the pool, which is 70000L by volume, so a goodly sized pool.
    Keeps the pool 85F for June/July/August and 80F in May/September.

    We reviewed microFit solar, but with the monster trees on our lot, it wasn't practical, as microFit requires on-roof installation. I purchase 100% renewable electricity from BullFrog power instead (for now).

    Once Net Metering becomes more prevalent, I'll review adding PV panels on the far backyard area with a perfect natural 30 degree ravine slope. Could comfortable fit 40kW but would likely only install 10kW.
     
  16. wayner

    wayner Active Member

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    What kind are your solar pool heaters? Mine are evacuated tube but I am wondering if that is the correct kind to get.

    Is your ravine slope clear of trees? I have a ravine behind my house but it has lots of low lying bushes like sumacs and Manitoba Maples, plus larger trees that also cast a shadow. And cutting down trees in a ravine is a big no-no.
     
  17. djp

    djp Roadster 2.0 VIN939

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    Powerstream already offers net metering for solar as an alternative to microFIT. Your house meter is replaced with a bi-directional meter and the solar panels are fed into the main panel box, on the house side of the meter. The hook-up is a lot simpler than installing two meters for microFIT, and you do consume your own power, but as you mentioned the economics aren't as good.
     
  18. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    Net metering has been around for a long time and is still available. Essentially, your meter is changed out for a bi-directional one (i.e. the same as your microFIT meter) and it records both forward and reverse energy flows in separate registers. The "netting" is done in the utility's billing systems. One caveat of net metered installations is that annually, you cannot be paid for more generation than you consume. In other words, you cannot reduce your bill, over a 12 month period, to below $0.00.

    By the way, utilities record both forward and reverse energy flow on microFIT meters, but under the regulations aren't allowed to bill for energy consumed by the microFIT equipment. Things like the inverter and other electronics consume a bit of power at night when the sun isn't shining, for instance. In some cases, solar companies will put monitoring equipment in and connect it to the microFIT meter. That consumption does not get billed either. As a utility guy, I don't think that is right, but those are the rules.

    The whole point of the microFIT rates was to spur the adoption of solar by paying higher prices so as to lower the payback period. As solar panel prices have come down, so too has the rate paid for microFIT electricity. I'm not 100% sure, but I think the benchmark payback period the government was shooting for was 7 years. I am fairly confident that microFIT will be retired soon and options will be limited to net metered installations. I assume this is because the costs have come to the point where the economic payback is now "reasonable". The recent fluctuations in the Canadian dollar certainly do introduce an unanticipated wrinkle. Originally, to be microFIT eligible, the equipment had to be primarily Ontario-made, but a WTO (or NAFTA, can't remember) appeal struck that down.

    In terms of "using your own power" with microFIT, you pretty much do. A load flow analysis will show the energy flows out the microFIT meter and right back in through your regular load meter. Excess will generally flow right in to your neighbors. It's not like the power is flowing all the way back through the system to a sub-station or TS, then back.

    My house, due to tree cover, is not ideal for solar, but I have a rental property out of town that would be ideal. Problem is, I don't know how long I intend to hold on to either property. I am close to retirement at this point in my life, and we've talked of moving out of the city when that happens. I had thought that a better option to rooftop solar would be to buy shares or invest in a larger FIT project. There are a couple of co-ops doing just that, but not nearly to the extent I thought would have happened. To me, buying 10 kW of capacity at a large solar farm, and getting the same or similar return, sounds a lot more appealing to me. No need to worry about a lost investment if I sell, insurance hassles, roofing issues and so forth.
     
  19. wayner

    wayner Active Member

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    Thanks for the info Mike. The current payback, assuming that you pay a little over $30k for your setup and earn revenue of $4.5k per year is a little over 7 years without considering the time value of money. But moving to net metering will halve your return or double your payback period as the average cost of power that you are offsetting is likely to be less than half of the $0.384 that you are getting from the FIT. And I imagine the declining C$ will raise the prices of installations for the 2016 season, pari passu. For 2016 Ontario is finally removing the debt retirement change, which is a good thing. But that will make net metering even less attractive.

    I don't doubt that you are right that we are likely to move to net metering but I have to think that will drastically slow the adoption of solar, at least for on-grid installations. This would be less of an issue if we didn't have the provincial government meddling in electricity prices - but that has happened in Ontario for over 100 years so I don't see it stopping soon. If electrical prices shoot up our Provincial governments have had the tendency to subsidize the electricity price. This makes investing in your own solar system less attractive. But I don't know why electricity prices would rise that much as 80% of our electricity comes from nuclear and hydro which don't have volatile input costs. Much of the rest comes from NatGas and that seems very plentiful these days.

    I wonder if we will ever get into the fights that you are seeing in some parts of the US where electrical utilities are trying to impose minimum monthly charges to be on the grid. They are complaining that folks with solar installs that use very little power from the grid due to net metering are being subsidized by everyone else as some of those people are paying pretty much nothing to the local power utility, yet still have the option of using the grid when required.

    By the way, I found a very good resource on solar power in Ontario on the web - but it comes in a strange place - the RedFlagDeals Personal Finance forum: http://forums.redflagdeals.com/ont-only-microfit-solar-panel-program-10-14-return-20-years-updated-1334001/36/

    That is a long thread but it has lots of info and details, including tax issues like GST reclaim, how to report your Solar energy income on your taxes, etc.
     
  20. Peter_M

    Peter_M Member

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    You're referring to this post about a way to invest locally in solar so you can offset your electricity usage (or more) with solar generation. OREC and similar organizations (e.g. TREC/SolarShare in Toronto) are a good option if you can't install solar panels at your home, or if you're more interested in the environmental benefit and the investment value than being an electricity generator yourself.
     

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