| Jan 27, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - January 29, 2009 On being a snowflake: Entering the World of Solar PowerBy Edie Cairns and Wendy Parliament

Installing solar panels

For the last 20 years, one of our dreams has been that some day we too could be generators of electricity, not just consumers. We have been lucky to know such local, positive role models as Stan & Marily Seitz and Dan Courtney. Long before the rest of us were thinking about how to lessen their carbon foot prints, these pioneers of independence were in there with their early solar panels and wind turbines. It was a lot of extra, hard work. They made many sacrifices to accommodate their choices. Being wimps in need of the usual creature comforts, the time never seemed “right” for us to take the plunge.

With the superior services of EcoAlternative Energy of Sharbot Lake, and the expertise of its owner/operators, Ron and Anne Kortekaas, our dream has finally come true. As temperatures plummeted to frigid, double digit numbers, we were beneficiaries of those clear skies that allowed the Arctic winds to penetrate this far south.

In a little over a month we went from “decision” to “completion”. Yes, the times are ripe for change! For years as teachers we have been extolling the virtues of green energy to our students. Finally, enough factors have come into play that we have been able to do more than just “talk the talk”.

Factors In Play - The Standard Offer Program developed by The Ontario Power Authority in November of 2006 is definitely open for applications.

STANDARD OFFER PROGRAM - Developed by The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) as an incentive for home, property and business owners, the plan allows the Solar Power Generator (that’s you) to sell electricity to their Local Distribution Company (LDC) at 42 cents per kWh. That is about 7 times what most Ontarians are paying for electricity. You get a 20 year, transferable contract and a guaranteed 42 cents/kWh for the term of the contract.

With this Grid Tie Package, the home owner has next to NO maintenance. There are no batteries, no unpredictable levels of power, no additional storage space needed. You remain a Hydro One customer, receiving your power, night and day, rain or shine. The incentives that are offered by the province to become a micro-generating station have increased the need for solar panels and inverters. With increased production the prices of the different components have begun to fall. An “entry level” system, including all taxes and registration fees, comes in at just under $20,000.

Is this a huge money maker? No. Does it make a difference? Yes!

Our system, installed by Ron and his son Kyle, includes eight 170 watt solar panels mounted on the south-facing roof of our house.

Based on an annual average of three and some half hours of sunlight per day, these panels will generate about 1740 kWh in a year. Ontario Hydro will buy these from us at $0.42 per kWh. That results in about $730 to be applied as a credit to our annual electricity bill. When you do the math, over 20 years these panels will generate $14,600 of savings.

It is a long-term project that will require a long-term commitment. Like so many of our life choices, this is about priorities. We too treasure this land in which we have chosen to make our lives. A side benefit to our solar generation is the annual reduction of nearly 2 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

We all know that a single snowflake does not make a snow mountain. We also know that a snow mountain is made of one snowflake at a time. Now we have added ours.

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