Submitted by Bob Bellamy
As long as I can remember I’ve always loved sunny days. Regardless of the season, sunshine just makes me feel good.
Now that we have installed a rooftop solar system on our house, the implication of sunlight has a distinctly additional dimension. It’s hard to believe that the solar panels attached to my roof are converting sunlight into electricity that powers our home. Let the sun shine!
Going solar was a journey. I’d like to suggest that I converted to rooftop solar after conducting an extensive research project into a cost-benefit analysis. “Truth be known,” and as is common with most good ideas in my household, the trek began at the suggestion by my wife. While watching a TV movie on a cold evening in February a scene with solar panels in the background prompted a remark.
“Look at the solar panels. Wonder if they work in Saskatchewan?”
To be honest the movie was a “chick flick” and I was really devoting most of my attention to a tablet perched on my lap. While pretending to relish my wife’s movie selection I secretly Googled solar power in Saskatchewan. I was shocked to learn that much of Saskatchewan was in fact an ideal location to generate electricity from solar panels because of the amount of sunshine the province enjoys.
I also learned that SaskPower has a net metering program for rooftop solar households, and covers 20 per cent of the cost of installation. Net metering means that your house remains connected to the grid, removing the necessity to store electricity in a costly system of batteries. Excess energy produced by your rooftop solar system is delivered to the grid. Your household is charged for electricity used and given a credit for electricity delivered. The credit is really important because day length in winter is short, meaning you’ll most likely use more than you will deliver.
The Google search also listed a number of solar panel installers in Saskatchewan. A few clicks to their websites allowed me to request quotes as to the cost of installing a solar system. By the end of the movie I had managed to apply for three competitive quotes on cost of rooftop solar systems while supposedly spending a “quality evening” with my beloved spouse.
The next morning I awoke to find three emails from installers, complete with preliminary drawings of my home’s rooftop. We do live in a changing world. I gave an address in my quote requests. The installers used Google Earth to acquire rough dimensions of my roof and developed a system based on average power usage. To get a more specific quote the only hard data I had to collect was the actual cost paid for electricity in the past year. Net metering does not pay you for the power produced only a credit to be applied to power used. I understand that you can get this info from SaskPower’s website, but once again my “super organized” wife came to the rescue and handed me a stack of SaskPower receipts.
Our rooftop solar system was hooked onto SaskPower's net metering system May 2017. That was indeed the last time we were charged for electricity usage. There is a small monthly fee paid to SaskPower for access to the grid.
So did it pay to go solar? Yep! In hindsight, it seems like a no-brainer. Without getting into specific amounts, we used proceeds from a savings account to fund the project. That savings account earned 1.8 per cent interest before paying income tax. The savings on our power bill would be equivalent to those same funds earning 7.5 per cent. In fact, the real amount would be significantly higher considering you are not taxed by reducing your household expenses. The solar panels are projected to last 25 years. When you do the math over the lifetime of our rooftop solar system, you will have saved three times today's cost, tax free. Now that is a good investment.
I’ve purposely avoided the topic of climate change. In today’s crazy world politics seems to have tainted the subject. But the fact remains, in Saskatchewan solar is a renewable energy source that competes with conventional power production. So regardless whether you install solar to save the world or simply to save your money it just makes sense!
An interesting side effect of going solar is that even though my rooftop covers all of our electrical costs it has also changed my behavior. I now shut the light off when I leave a room! Every lightbulb in the house has been changed to LED. I no longer use the TV to provide background noise and even shut the computer off when not in use! These changes have significantly reduced my power usage. In fact, I now produce considerably more power than I use.
This surplus produces enough power to fuel an electric car - but that's another story to follow.