Now is the best time to get into renewable energy generation
As a Renewable Energy Specialist at EECOL, the constant roll out of new products, new rules, and new green incentives certainly keeps me on my toes – but also makes my job a lot of fun! As much as new developments in clean energy can be exciting for techy people like me, I know that for some, it can create doubt about investing time and resources into renewables.
Addressing Green Energy Paralysis Analysis
We all know a friend that won’t buy a new cell phone or TV because another better, faster one is coming out, eventually. For a client, investing in renewable systems can be a lot like that too. Should we wait for that 500-Watt solar panel to come out, or for some other future breakthrough?
In general, we don’t need to wait because the investment at the time of purchase is based on the production of energy and what the system is going to pay over its lifetime.
Facts can Trump Fears
When a client hesitates about committing to renewables, it can often be rooted in concerns about the Return On Investment (ROI), or whether the tech will quickly be outdated. By listening to their concerns and providing accurate and up-to-date information about products, those fears can be alleviated. The truth is the tech has come a long way and most products today have a lifetime of 20-plus years.
Once a client makes a decision to seriously investigate renewable – for example, solar panels – we can help determine their ROI and their payback scenario. A key factor in determining ROI and payback is also investigating what green incentives, rebates and grants are available for their renewables in their area as this will obviously offset the input costs for the system.
Last, but not least, we can reassure the client that green is here to stay. The process of replacing technologies that use fossil fuels with technologies that use electricity as a source of energy – called electrification – isn’t slowing down any time soon. When it comes to renewables, the Canada Energy Regulator predicts that new renewable sources – wind, solar photovoltaic energy, tidal waves and others – will only see increased growth.
As with any other electrical products, what really matters is who you’re buying it from, who’s supporting you over the long term, and what kind of added value they provide.
Below, we walk you through EECOL’s renewable energy generation offerings well some decision-making factors. Last, but not least, we’ll break down some of the green incentives available in the geographical areas EECOL serves.
A Quick Note About Insurance
While it’s arguably a little outside of your scope, you may want to encourage clients – especially the residential ones – to speak to their insurance company about their renewable energy plans to avoid insurance coverage complications. It’s to their benefit to make sure to their policy protects their investment.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada offers some good advice on the subject of solar panels in particular.
In cases where there is no grid connectivity, an off-grid solar system for renewable energy generation is your best bet. These are typically used for cottages, cabins, to run water pumps, but also for remote oil and gas sites.
Off-grid systems can be roof-, ground- or pole-mounted, but all of them use a grid inverter and a battery backup that the inverter pulls from rather than the grid. Of course, the main job of the inverter is to convert Direct Current (DC) into usable Alternating Current (AC) power for the site.
There are also hybrid systems that have off-grid and grid tie. When the grid goes down with these systems, the inverter automatically switches on the battery back-up power. These are especially popular for rural homes where they can experience more power outages than in the city.
To design a system that is going to work for your client, we need to know a lot of details, and this is what makes off-grid a little more complicated than grid-tie.
To start, we need a good understanding of the site and how it will be used. Is it an off-grid residence or a cottage, a commercial facility? Is it equipment like a water pump? Or are they looking for backup power? Is it seasonal usage or are they going to be using it all season?
We also want to calculate around the potential days of storage or days of autonomy – the number of days the battery is expected to provide energy even if there is no solar power generation due to weather (cloudy days, rain, etc.).
We also need a precise understanding of their load descriptions – from their lighting to their coffee pot to their TVs – and how many hours per day each load is expected to perform. For example, are they leaving their coffee pot on all day?
Once we have all this information, then we can design and size a system to meet their needs, including their days of autonomy.
With the cost of living rising, it’s no wonder that so many Canadians are turning to grid-tie systems for their homes and businesses. The good news for your clients – especially the ones living on the Prairies – is that all the major cities in Canada have
In general, grid-tie systems are far less complicated to design than off-grid. We start by determining whether your client is looking for a roof- or ground-mount system, and what size their service needs to be. Is it single or three phase? What’s the voltage or amperage? What are the roof dimensions if they want it mounted on a roof?
If it is a roof-mounted system – which is common in urban sites – what is the condition of the roof? Is it metal or shingles? (Please note, all roof-mounted systems will come with an engineering report to ensure stability and safety of the system design.)
Beyond logistics of the set up, we also want to understand the goal of the system production. Are your clients looking for net zero or just to offset a portion of electrical costs? Do they want to fill the roof space available? Do they you want to max out the utility sell-back program or net metering program they have?
Your clients should also be made aware that the rates they will get when selling their energy back to the system – commonly referred to as net-metering – will vary depending on what retailer they choose. The options vary greatly from province to province for net metering. While this list isn’t exhaustive, here are some the most common net metering options in the areas EECOL serves:
Manitoba Hydro is the main option in this province.
Northwest Territories (NWT):
Communities, commercial businesses, non-profit organizations and NWT residents are eligible to receive $20,000 funding from the Arctic Energy Alliance before signing on with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation for net metering.
The Yukon government requires customers to work with the Energy Branch to get pre-approval for net metering. Residential, general service (business) and industrial customers of ATCO Electric Yukon and Yukon Energy are eligible.
There are also administration fees and charges associated with selling back into the grid, so encourage your client to factor this in when choosing a net metering provider.
Last, but not least. It’s a good idea to try to understand the state of the grid they will be selling back into and whether or not there is enough grid stability to sell energy back into the system. While upgrading the grid has been a priority for the government of Canada, your local situation may vary.
Small Wind Turbines
In general, wind energy is good because wind occurs 70% of the day in Canada. Depending on where your client lives, a small wind turbine could be a great option.
As with solar, the electricity can be used, stored in batteries, or sent to the electricity grid depending on location. The amount of detail needed to design this system will of course depend on what your clients wants it to do (off-grid, grid-tie, etc.).
Like the name suggests, these turbines are smaller in stature and can be a good choice in rural locations or sites where there is enough space and wind to install them.
There is, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation out there about wind turbines so educating clients can be an important step to getting them on board. One of our vendors, Borrum Energy Solutions, has put together a great pros and cons sheet that can walk a client through the advantages and disadvantages of wind and dispel some of the myths about wind turbines themselves.
Electric Vehicle (EV) Chargers
When it comes to EV Chargers, we can recommend the best option once we have a good understanding of your client’s needs. Here is some basic information we need to know before we can design a system:
Charge or No Charge
Do they want to charge for the power? Do they need Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) access to the chargers for their employees?
Do they want a pedestal mount or a wall mount? Do they want dual chargers on the pedestal mount? And if they want dual charges on the pedestal mount, then let’s confirm what the parking lot looks like in order to create an optimal design.
There are a lot of variables to consider, but as with other renewables, getting these details right at the beginning saves us headaches down the road.
Rebates and Green Incentives
There is no doubt that the biggest barrier to renewables is the upfront costs for setting up a system. Luckily, there are numerous green energy rebates and incentives in Canada to help offset this expense. Here is a list of some of the most common ones founds in the areas EECOL serves:
Canada Greener Homes Initiative – Qualifying Canadians can get grants from $125 to $5,000 to get a part of your costs back for eligible home retrofits; a $600 as a maximum contribution towards the total costs of your pre and post retrofit EnerGuide home evaluations; and an interest free loan of up to $40,000, with a repayment term of 10 years.
- British Columbia – BC offers a wide variety of residential and commercial programs.
- Alberta – Alberta has both provincial and some municipal financial incentives for renewables.
- Saskatchewan – There are some efficiency programs available in addition to the Canada Greener Homes Initiatives.
- Manitoba – Many of Manitoba’s programs are centred around energy efficiency.
- Northwest Territories – Again, lots of energy efficiency programs in addition to federal incentives.
- Yukon – Many energy efficiency programs, but some solar as well.
- Other provinces – Check here for programs outside of EECOL’s service area.
It’s Time to Go Green! With advancements in green tech, lots of green rebates and financial incentives, now is the perfect time to make the leap to renewable energy generation.