Category: Solar PV System Q&A

2018 Edmonton Fall Home Show

Fall is in the air!

We’re getting excited about the turning of the seasons, waking up to a crispness in the air, watching the brightly coloured leaves fall, and picking the last of our gardens. This fall, we are very excited to be attending the Edmonton Fall Home Show from October 26 – 28 at Booth #816. We are eager to see the fantastic landscaping, designs, décor, and treats at the show, as well as see the great line-up of industry professionals (and celebrities!).

We encourage you to come down and say hello. We will be more than happy to answer any of your questions, and just connect at this fantastic event! If you’re worried about the price, you and save $3 by getting your tickets online through our website as well!

Leading up to the event and during the event day, we will be using #FallforSolar to share what is happening, so be sure to follow-along! Also, if you want to reach out, or share a picture with us, please use the hashtag to connect! We are looking forward to seeing you this fall!

Get 2-for-1 tickets with promo ZIBBY: https://bit.ly/2RnBNDy

Coolest solar uses

Top 10 Coolest Uses of Solar Energy 2018

While we love installing solar panels, we also love seeing the new and innovative ways others are using them! Check out some of our favourite ways solar is being put to work!

1. Solar Device Charging

From solar powered bobble heads, to solar powered battery packs, solar is a convenient way to keep charged on the go. While individuals can purchase their own personal solar powered chargers, the City of Edmonton, among other cities, also has public solar powered chargers! Want to see for yourself? Head down to the Old Strathcona Farmers Market and see if you can find them!

2. Solar Powered Cars

Solar powered cars are catching our hearts and minds! We have been predicting when cars will become solar powered for generations, in drawings of silver and glass cities and hover-cars… Now, even public centres such as the Londonderry Shopping Mall in North Edmonton are prepared! They have solar covered car ports and electric vehicle charging available for the wave of the future. Love or Hate Elon Musk, we give a mass shout-out for the surge of this technological development. Interested in your own garage charging station? Ask us!

3. Rural Development

While we are lucky enough to have energy from a grid, not all places are so lucky. Solar is providing power not only to homes and businesses in countries where electrical grids are less / un-developed, but to medical centres and schools as well. Solar energy is stored in batteries and is providing energy for rural and under-developed areas that may not otherwise access it! Among the numerous places, this solar powered shipping container is providing medical relief in Haiti.

4. Solar Military

To reduce dependence on Fossil fuels, and provide energy in any location, no matter how remote, the U.S. Military uses solar to power operations. This flexible, sheet-like solar set-up provides the flexibility, and energy needed to power operations. How great would this be for camping?

5. Solar NASA

Not impressed enough by the military’s use of solar? NASA also has been experimenting and relying on solar for years. They have investigated the use of solar in a variety of forms, but the power of solar is most popular for use in Satellites. Read more on our Solar Powered Star Wars post!

6. Mass Solar Scalability

We sometimes hear that solar is not scalable, it can not sufficiently power places or things that we love. This solar powered stadium in Taiwan illustrate not only the practical use of solar on a large scale, but also the beauty of solar in architecture. While we haven’t designed a system to look like dragon scales on a stadium (yet…) we have done some pretty cool projects too. Check them out here!

7. Clean Drinking Water

As if solar was not already attractive because of its contribution to sustainability by providing a cleaner energy source, solar can now produce water out of thin air. While these devices by Fontus create water by pulling water out of the air (powered by solar), we are imagining it’s functionality being expanded to provide clean drinking water for all!

8. Solar Lights

These every-day use of solar cells make our list for exactly that reason – they are practical for homes to use every day. Whether used for lighting up your stairs or adding a little shine to your beautiful garden at night, this has been the easiest way for people to become acquainted with solar. It eliminates the need for all those unsightly cords and enables homeowners to increase the light around their home, without increasing their electricity bills! (Tip: Remove the batteries during winter months to protect the batteries, while the solar cells would continue to function, the batteries used in these devices are not intended for our cold Canadian winters)

9. Solar Camping

Solar powered camping tentSeveral products exist to make camping easier with solar energy. Our first tent had a solar powered light in it, adding a bit of creature-comfort in our wilderness habitat. You can also get solar powered flashlights, power-packs mentioned above, or backpacks. So, you can keep playing your music while taking that hike, play candy crush while canoeing, and find your way to the tent after the fire goes out!

10.   Solar Powered Communities

solar edmontonOf course, our favourite are the solar powered homes, community leagues, company buildings, and indigenous community centres that have adopted solar. These places have gone above ‘standard’ and are reducing their environmental impact while saving money. Call us to learn more about getting solar panels of your own!

CHFC

City of Edmonton Solar Rebate

For this week’s blog we wanted to give a shout-out to the City of Edmonton Change Homes for Climate Solar Program. Essentially, the program offers Edmontonians an additional municipal rebate to help reduce the costs of going solar. By combining municipal and provincial solar rebates, you can save up to 30% of the cost of your solar system! For more information on the rebates, you can visit: changeforclimate.ca/solar and watch the fantastic video below!

And if this sounds like a bit of a pitch – you’re right, it is. We are so excited to see these incentives come to our city and help our fellow Edmontonians save money up-front, and in the long-term. Have you taken advantage of this program yet? Do you have solar? Tell us about your solar on Facebook or Twitter! Use the hashtag #changeforclimate to follow the conversation.

Want to chat more with us about how to save money through solar and solar rebates?

Give us a call!

Gridworks Energy
587-405-9090
Free Estimate Form

Gridworks

global solar

Solar – A Global Observation

Consumed by local solar events, it is easy to forget how global industry trends can also affect us. The US tariffs on the solar industry, for example, are a powerful reminder of the global economy and how closely tied we really are. With so much going on in the world of solar, we decided to explore a bit outside of our local industry, to understand what impacts the rest of the world might make.

USA

Two major events have occurred in the United States this year which have seen a ripple effect in the solar industry worldwide. No. 1 was California’s mandate to install solar on all new homes. No. 2 was the Tariffs imposed by the federal government.

Sunny California Goes Green

California committed fully to going green this year by mandating all new homes be built with solar panels starting 2020. While some argue that this command and control technique is not the best way to reduce carbon emissions (for any number of reasons), others think this will encourage the future development of the state commit to sustainability in architecture. Regardless of what side you are on, it means that homes will continue being built, and will require solar panels. Some homebuilders may consider pre-building and permitting homes to avoid meeting these new regulations, but homes will still be built beyond 2020. This will lead to an increase in solar module demand, and may increase the price of solar modules.

Trump’s Tariffs

The US solar industry has seen not one, but two sets of Tariffs to solar. The first was a 30% tariff on all solar cell and modules implemented in January 2018. Most recently, an additional 25% tariff has been imposed on imported products from China, including solar cells and modules. While it may be too soon to understand the full implications of these, two subsequent events have occurred. Following the initial imposition of 30% tariffs, $2.5 billion was lost in cancelled projects, not to mention the loss of jobs across the country. The second event that occurred was the increase in US based manufacturing plants. Some of these manufacturers are US based companies taking advantage of a higher barrier of entry to foreign firms; others are foreign firms seeking to circumvent the tariffs imposed.

Despite the increase in domestic manufacturing, the cost of foreign goods with high tariffs or the cost of domestically produced materials may have some influence on the price of solar in the US.

China

China continues to build solar cells and modules, in both China and the US. Recent Chinese government decisions to cut funding for solar could actually boost global panel production. Solar panels built in China are expected to see a significant fall in prices due to high manufacturing for current demand, but will likely not let up once domestic demand falls.

India

As India proposes to implement a 25% safeguard duty on solar panels from China, local solar companies are stockpiling solar panels from China. This stockpiling also contributes to an increased current demand for the Chinese solar panels.

Canada

So what does this all mean for us here in Canada? The US Tariff has already created reduced international solar cell and module demand, but has also increased local producers. China is currently encountering a high demand for solar cells and modules and has ramped up domestic and international production to keep up with the demand. These measures all create an increase in production and supply of solar panels. Furthermore, while the US pays more for imports and domestic products, Canadian solar installers can look forward to reduced prices due to the supply of modules and lack of tariffs.

 

Have other thoughts on global solar? Drop us a line! 

Gridworks

587-405-9090
Free Estimate Form

 

 

Gridworks

 

 

 

 

how long do solar panels last

How Long do Solar Panels Last?

How long will solar panels last?

When deciding whether or not to buy and install solar panels, cost is a major factor. You want to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck. A major part of that is the durability and reliability of your solar panels. Why would you spend $10,000 – $20,000 on something that will only last 5 – 10 years? We decided to answer some frequently asked questions about durability, reliability, and solar panel life span.

Solar panels are made of glass, so will they break?

The short answer is that they can, but that they shouldn’t.

The solar cells themselves are very fragile, but they are protected by a thick layer of glass and a durable frame. Solar panels are designed and tested to withstand even the most extreme conditions, from freezing rain to golf ball sized hail at 80 km/hour. Our rule of thumb is: If it will damage or break your roof, it may damage or break your panels. If you are expecting that kind of damage, however, you may have bigger problems than the durability of your solar panels.

What kind of testing is done on solar panels?

Manufacturers test their panels quite extensively to ensure they are durable and reliable. Solar panels can go through a variety of tests including being placed in a humidity chamber, Thermal stress tests, UV stress tests, pressure tests and force tests (being hit with objects). These tests are used to ensure the panels do not yellow, crack, break, or have mechanical or electrical malfunctions.

When purchasing solar panels as a part of a full installation, your installer should recommend the best solar panels for your climate and conditions. This is one of the reasons it is so important to find a qualified contractor, to ensure their analysis and recommendations are sound and will provide you with the results you expect. Word of mouth is our primary way of obtaining business, so if you are not satisfied, we know you won’t recommend us. This is why it is so critical for us to make sure you get the most durable, and reliable solar panels possible.

Do solar panels malfunction?

They can. Although it is not common, a panel could have an issue that could prevent it from producing electricity. You can monitor the production of each panel or on the entire system by getting a monitoring system. Before getting solar panels, be sure to ask about the manufacturer’s warranty in the event that one of your panels does malfunction. You might also consider purchasing a spare panel you can keep in case one of the panels does malfunction or loses production. While you may still be covered by your warranty, this will allow you to replace the panel right away while you wait for a resolution (such as the shipment of a new panel).

Solar panel lifespan

Solar panels do degrade over time. With technological improvements continually slowing the process of solar panels degrading, solar panels produced today degrade far slower than those even 10 years ago, at approximately .5% a year for a monocrystalline silicon panel (commonly used in residential installations).  “That means that a panel manufactured today should produce 92% of its original power after 20 years”.

Extra Protection

Make sure your solar panels AND the installation (labour) is warrantied, either by the solar panel manufacturer and / or by your solar contractor. Don’t forget to also call your insurance provider to see if your solar panels are covered by your home insurance.

Have any other questions about solar panel longevity? Call or email us to get your questions answered!

 

Gridworks Energy

587-405-9090
Free Estimate Form

Solar panel company

 

solar cost

Solar Panel Costs

Solar energy is an attractive option for many homeowners and business owners. The idea of reducing electricity bills, supporting sustainable practices, and increasing home equity are just a few of the great features of going solar. But how much does it cost?

We get it. We don’t like spending more money than we must either. But there has never been a more financially supportive time in Alberta’s history – to go solar. So let’s help break down the numbers, and see how affordable solar is.

What does a solar panel cost?

This can differ depending on solar panel size and type. These factors will depend on how much electricity you use, and your site. A quick search will show individual panels can cost anywhere between $50.00 for a small panel, to $300.00 for a large one. Because of this, it’s better to estimate the cost based on the size of the solar PV system.
Although solar PV system costs also can vary quite dramatically, they usually range from $10,000 to $25,000. To get a rough quote for yourself, fill out our free estimate form and we can get back to you. For the most accurate estimate, talk to us about a free site assessment!

How much does maintenance cost?

Solar panels are actually very low maintenance. Once they are installed, just let them do their job! If they become heavily covered in dust or debris, you can contract someone to clean them off which does not cost very much. We don’t recommend cleaning them yourself for safety reasons. You can contact your solar contractor for help finding someone to clean the panels. If they don’t do it themselves, they should be able to recommend someone.
The panels themselves are very durable and should last for decades. If something does go wrong with one of them, warranty may cover the cost of replacement, otherwise it may need to be replaced.

How much will my electricity bill go down?

This depends on the size of your array. While your electricity costs can be brought down incredibly low, possibly even to zero, you will still have to pay fees for services such as distribution by your utility provider.

How long will it take my investment to pay off?

Again, this depends on the size of your solar array and your electricity usage habits. Anywhere from 10 – 20 years is common but could be shorter or longer depending on your electricity consumption and solar array size. During this time however, you are paying off equity you have invested in your home, instead of paying for the electricity itself!

How can I afford solar panels?

There are several different ways to afford solar panels. First off, you will need the initial investment. Once the solar panels are installed and operational, there are several types of rebates available.

Savings, Friends, and Family

Usually one of the first places people go to for financing any home investment is their own savings, or small contributions from friends and family.

Financing

Lot’s of financing options are available for funding solar panels installations. We even have our own financing! Take a further look into financing here.

Loans / Line of credit

Loans and lines of credit are like financing and can be obtained from most financial institutions. Talk to your bank for loan / line of credit options and interest rates.

Gofundme

Solar is great! If you are social savvy, why not make a case for going green? You might be surprised how many people will support your efforts in establishing a sustainable lifestyle.

Rebates and Incentives

This is what you’ve been waiting for. Alberta has been slow in supporting renewable energy transition but is making up for it. Both Alberta and Municipal rebates now exist, and we can even help you find out which is the best option for you. Take a look at our incentives and rebates page here.

Want more help?

Give us a call or send us an email to find out more! We can go through the entire process with you, do a site and cost estimate, and go through funding options with you. Give us a call or send us an email to get started.

Gridworks Energy
587-405-9090
info@gridworksenergy.com

Solar panel company

solar relax

Can Solar Power my Home?

MYTH: Solar can’t power my home

Without a huge solar PV system and battery bank – you are right. Grid-tied systems, however, don’t have to.

How a grid tied system works

In a grid tied system, you are not actually powering your own home. You are producing power to send to the electrical grid which is known as micro-generation. When you produce more electricity than you consume, your utility provider will credit you for the additional electricity through net-metering (see Section 8 of the Micro-Generation Regulation). You will still have a utility bill because the grid is still being operated. Your fees may include your distribution charge, transmission charge, local access fee and delivery charge. If you do not produce quite enough energy to cover the amount of electricity you consume, you will also need to pay the difference for electricity use.

Why this works

This means that no matter how much electricity your solar panels produce:

  1. You will have full electricity if the grid is operational (example of non-operational would be a local power outage)
  2. Your lights will not be ‘dimmed’
  3. You will have full power for your electric water heater, electric vehicle charging station, computers, TV’s, Microwave, and other electrical needs
  4. You will have electricity at night and in the middle of winter

Your panels are intended to off-set your carbon footprint, so while you still are using the electrical grid, you are ensuring that the amount of electricity you consume is being provided by clean energy sources.

What about in the winter when there is less light

Alberta winters provide an ideal setting for solar panels to produce electricity. There will be times through the year where your panels do produce more or less electricity based on amount of daylight hours, shadows, and temperature. The reason micro-generation works is because you are credited when your panels produce more electricity, which you can carry forward for 12 months. These credits can then be applied to your bill during the months where your panels produce less electricity than your household consumes. This essentially zero’s out your electricity costs, so all you have to worry about is the utility company fees.

 

Now that you are ready to save on your electricity bills, build equity in your home, and help protect the environment, give us a call for a free estimate!

Gridworks Energy
587-405-9090
Free Estimate Form

Solar contractor

Hiring a Solar Contractor

Okay, I’m in. How do I evaluate solar quotes?

What is qualified vs. Fly by night

The first thing to examine or look for when you are seeking a contractor to install your solar panels is their reputation and credibility. It is unfortunate, but true, that there are some contractors who start company’s, obtain contracts, and haphazardly completes their jobs (if they complete them at all).

Look for a contractor who:

  1. Has several years of experience
  2. Has owned and operated the same business for several years
  3. Has positive reviews or can provide references
  4. Provides warranties on their work and can provide you with product warranty information
  5. Can provide qualifications of company and installers
    1. Labourers can be used for some of the very initial work, but most work must be completed by a Journeyman or Master Electrician with CSA Certification.
    2. Do they subcontract any work out? If so, what kind of workmanship warranties do they provide for contract workers, and how can they guarantee the sub-contractors’ qualifications?
    3. Do they use any engineers? Your solar installer should be using a qualified engineer for advice on structural integrity to protect your new solar investment, and your home.
    4. SESA and CanSIA membership can help prove company legitimacy.
    5. A solar energy specialist is as knowledgeable as any electrician but will have CSA certification and years of experience specifically with solar energy systems. This ensures you get the best system, and the best installation.
    6. Finally, verify the payment terms and that the company has WCB.

How do I find a qualified contractor?

You can find a complete list of solar energy contractors at the Solar Energy Society of Alberta. Alternatively, you can just call us!

How do I compare solar quotes?

  1. First, know that cheaper is not better. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. If a deal seems to good to be true, it likely is. A qualified solar contractor pays for a highly qualified team to complete the design and build of all solar energy systems, and will purchase the most affordable, available product that meets their customers unique needs. High quality products and workmanship is often more expensive but is well worth it. It is like purchasing a new car from an authorized and well-known brand, versus paying for a vehicle that someone has assembled in their garage out of spare parts. Do your due diligence to ensure you are getting the most reasonable price, for quality work performed by a qualified company.
  2. An on-site assessment should be conducted. Sure, a quick off-the-cuff rough estimate might help you ball-park the cost of a solar energy system in general, but when you are looking to compare estimates, the estimate should be based on your home. Your short-listed contractors should perform a site visit to assess for structure, slope, shade, among many other factors. If they don’t visit, the quote you receive may not be very reliable.
  3. Compare price, size, and quality of products used. If you see products from a chain consumer hardware store, this may be a red flag. Qualified solar energy contractors will often use solar equipment distributors, where they will get better prices, better quality products. In addition, many of these distributors will only sell products to qualified contractors which will help you verify the company legitimacy.

Can I install solar panels myself?

Not unless you are a CSA certified journeyman or master electrician and seek a qualified engineer to assist with the site assessment and system design. Solar energy systems literally harness the power of the sun with the intent of providing enough electricity to power a home. That is enough electrical current to severely injure, or potentially kill a human being. Please, seek the expertise of a certified solar contractor for the design and installation of your system for your safety, and that of your family.

If that is not reason enough, solar contractors often get less expensive products because they purchase them frequently, and from trusted distributors. That means you are likely to receive better quality, less expensive panels by using a solar contractor.
What are the different types of solar panels?

The two most commonly used types of solar panels used are ‘monocrystalline’ and ‘polycrystalline’. Learn more about what a solar panel is made of, and what the difference is here.

How does the installation process work?

When we install solar panels, we use a simple 5 Step Process that is detailed here.

Should I ask for a solar monitoring system?

You don’t have to but can! Solar monitoring allows you to check the efficiency of your solar energy system, and you would be able to tell right away if something is not functioning correctly with one of your panels. Talk to your solar contractor for more information, and to find out if a solar monitoring system is right for you.

Do I need to install batteries?

For a grid-connected system you do not need batteries, although if you would like them, it may be an option.

If you’re ready to go solar, give us a call. We’ll answer all your questions, and provide you an estimate based on your home and lifestyle.

Gridworks Energy Group
587-405-9090

Gridworks Energy Solar Panels

Pace Alberta

URGENT: PACE Legislation changes needed

While we are super excited and strongly support the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, some crucial changes are needed in legislation to ensure the PACE program works as effectively as possible for Albertan’s.

What can I do?

Write a letter!

PACE Alberta has a very easy to edit document (letter template) that you can use and all of the contacts to send it to. Let your MLA and Alberta government know what you think, and that you want these amendments made to the legislation to make sure it is successful and works for everyone!

What is PACE?

The Property Assessed Clean energy Program (PACE) is a financing tool that has been demonstrated to be effective in the United States, and has recently been brought to Alberta. Essentially, the program allows homeowners to make energy efficiency upgrades without having to put their money up front. Instead, they can get these upgrades and pay for them through their property taxes. These upgrades can include solar panels, high-insulation windows, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. Often, the savings the upgrades provide are greater than the added cost to their property taxes.

What is the Legislation?

Rural Municipalities of Alberta sums the legislation up very well: “The Government of Alberta has recently tabled Bill 10: An Act to Enable Clean Energy Improvements to provide municipalities with the ability, on a voluntary basis, to establish PACE programs”

Why is it important?

Environmental Conservation

By reducing barriers to upgrading to clean energy improvements, each household has the ability to reduce their carbon footprint

Economics

According to Minister of Municipal Affairs, Shaye Anderson: “PACE programs have been adopted by regions across North America and have generated nearly $6 billion in economic activity” (2018). This activity means more jobs, and increased economic output.

Equity

Homeowners have the opportunity to begin investing in their home immediately, without having to save up a significant up-front cost. These upgrades add value to their home and are investments with immediate returns.
What is wrong with the current legislation?

PACE Alberta and PACE stakeholders have identified 5 main areas for improvements to the legislation (Read more details here on the PACE website). One of these improvements is the option to make the PACE program retroactive.

Why Retroactive PACE?

Homeowners:

Many homeowners want to make upgrades, and some could make the upgrades right away. Waiting for the PACE program is an added incentive that would enable homeowners to mitigate their costs. This would keep more money in their pockets today in case of emergency and for other home upgrades or life needs. By making the program retroactive, the risk is removed from anyone who is afraid of missing out.

Economic:

While those who are ready to make upgrades but don’t want to miss this program wait, installers and trades people are also forced to wait for work. By making the program retroactive, those who would make the upgrades anyway can do so without fear of missing the opportunity. Businesses who provide these services can then continue working with their customers’ best interest at heart.

We encourage you to contact your MLA and let them know you support PACE and the proposed changes. In addition, please share this post, or the PACE Alberta website to spread the word!

 

solar panel

What is a solar panel?

What is a Solar Panel?

We keep hearing about renewable energy, and how solar panels can help home owners reduce their carbon footprint and save (or even make) money. But what are solar panels, solar cells, solar modules and solar photovoltaic systems? There are so many words associated with solar that it can be a bit difficult understanding they all mean. So here it is!

Solar Cell

It starts with a solar cell. A solar cell, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) cell is an electrical device that converts the energy in light into electricity. These cells are made of semiconducting material, which means they can carry electricity. Because they do carry electricity, it is very important that they are installed by certified electricians, to prevent injuries and fatalities.

These solar cells are put together to form a module, which you would see as a stand-alone square or rectangle. We put these solar modules together to form a solar panel. The solar PV units used all together form what is called a solar array. A full solar PV system includes the solar array, plus all of the mounting equipment, hardware, inverters, and grid connection.

Cell:

 Solar Cell

Module:Solar Module

 

Panel:Solar Panel

Array:

 

System:

Solar PV System

Materials

What are solar cells made of? The most prevalent material used in the production of solar cells is crystalline silicon. This is a semi-conducting crystalline form of silicon either made of small crystals or a continuous crystal. Mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline are the two most commonly used types of crystalline silicon.

Mono-crystalline cells tend to be black in colour. In this form, the silicon is formed into bars and then cut into wafers. It is often more efficient and therefore more expensive.

Mono crystalline

The second common crystalline silicon used is Poly-crystalline. This type of module is typically blue in colour. Poly-crystalline is formed by melting silicon fragments together to form wafers, and is often less expensive because it is slightly less efficient.

Which material should you look for as a consumer? You may think you need the polycrystalline in order for your solar PV system to work well, but this is often not the case. While monocrystalline modules are typically more efficient, often times polycrystalline modules are just as effective. Ask your solar PV installation provider if you have any concerns about which ones they are recommending, and why they are suggesting either product for your solar PV system.

If you’re still not sure what you need, leave it to us! We will design a system custom to your needs and property. We’ll answer all your questions, and leave you with a high functioning solar PV system that will meet all your electricity needs for years to come!

Call us for more information!

(587) 405-9090