Are Solar Panels Right for You?
Medicine Hat is fortunate to have the most hours of sunshine in Canada. With an average 2,544 sunshine hours and 330 days of sunshine per year, our community is a great place to invest in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
But why should you consider installing a solar PV system on your house? Deciding if solar panels are right for you can seem like an overwhelming task. To help you get started, here are some things to consider:
Your energy habits: If your utility bills cost you hundreds of dollars each month, solar energy can offer big potential savings. It is a great solution for homes that consume a lot of power. Keep in mind that energy generation typically corresponds with need. During summer afternoons when the sun is brightest, energy needs rise (think fans and air conditioners), while solar energy generation increases.
Your home's exposure: The sun is always in the south in Medicine Hat. Ideally, your roof should have unobstructed south-facing exposure to get the most out of the sun’s energy. Also, it is best practice to tilt solar modules to the approximate degree of latitude of any given location. Is the slope of your roof sufficient or will you need to adjust the tilt of the panels to align with the height of the sun on the horizon.
The surrounding area: Looking at the area around your home is essential to determining if your home is suitable for solar panels. For instance, is your roof blocked by trees or buildings? If the answer is yes, your home might not get enough sunlight to efficiently produce electricity.
Your roof's condition: When considering the option to install solar panels, make sure you assess the condition of your existing roof. For instance, will you need to replace the shingles within the next decade? This may be work you'd like to complete before you install solar panels.
Your wallet: Did you know that Medicine Hat utility customers currently have access to two sources of funding for installing solar PV systems on their homes? Rebates are currently available through the HAT Smart program for residential installations and Energy Efficiency Alberta for residential and commercial installations!
- HAT Smart - Solar Electric Program
- Energy Efficiency Alberta - Residential and Commercial Solar Program
If you are still unsure, we recommend reaching out to a reputable contractor for a quote on installing solar panels. The contractor will conduct a preliminary site assessment and will be able to determine if a property is suitable for solar PV systems.
The City of Medicine Hat’s net metering program is designed for customers who generate electricity for their own use. When you generate more electricity than you need, you sell it back to the City. When you don't generate enough to meet your needs, you buy it from the City.
The City measures the electricity using a bi-directional meter. Bi-directional meters have two registers, one to measure the electricity delivered and one for electricity sold back to the City. Customers receive a Micro-Generation credit for the electricity sold to the City.
During the day, most solar PV systems produce more electricity than the customer consumes. Therefore, on average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output is sold to the City at the monthly Energy Rate. This energy is then used to serve nearby customers’ energy requirements.
For example, if a residential customer has a solar PV system, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. The customer will receive a Micro-Generation credit for the excess energy that is produced and sold during this time. Customers are billed for their net energy use (electricity delivered less electricity sold).
Cost Saving Calculator
As outline above, customers are only billed for their "net" energy usage - the amount of energy flowing into or out of the home. What a bi-directional meter cannot measure is the amount of electrity produce and used within the home before it can be sent back to the grid.
The City of Medicine Hat has created a tool to help residents understand the additional savings that may not be apparent on utility bills. By entering a few details into the calculator, customers will be able to see an estimate of the costs saved by avoiding the additional distribution charges for each month. To use the tool:
- Click on the Solar Calculator icon to the right.
- Select a month from the drop down menu.
- Select the customer type from the drop down menu.
- Enter the kilowatt-hours generated by your solar PV sytstem for the month in the "Produced KWh" box.
- Click on the "Update KWh Generated" button.
- The estimated cost savings for each distribution fee type will be automatically generated in the grey boxes.
- The total estimated savings for the month will appear at the top of the page.
To view utility rates, click on the link below:
The Municipal Climate Change Action Centre also provides a calculator to assist project planners evaluate the cost implications of proposed grid connected solar PV projects when compared to purchasing electricity from the grid in Alberta. This tool will allow you to estimate yearly cash flow with and without a solar PV system and compare the total net present value of each option over an analysis period. Before you begin you will need to collect information about your project.