Explore Common Questions About Solar Energy

Our teams’ experts get asked lot of questions about solar, from net-metering, to types of solar energy systems, to viable locations for system installations. Here are some of our most frequently asked questions to help guide you in all of your renewable energy needs. If you can’t find the information you are looking for, reach out and one of our team members would be happy to help you!

BC Hydro’s Net-Metering program is a credit/debit system for balancing your solar energy exports against traditional utility consumption. It empowers grid-tied solar system owners in Victoria and Vancouver Island to save or even earn from excess energy production. The system credits excess energy exported to the grid at a 1:1 ratio, enabling most owners to generate credits in summer, which are then used to lower energy bills in winter.

BC Hydro Net Metering

Solar panels in regions like Vancouver Island can efficiently capture sunlight and convert it to electricity. The generated DC (Direct Current) is transformed to AC (Alternating Current) by inverters, which are then used to power homes. Any surplus power can be fed back into the BC Hydro grid, contributing to sustainable living.

  • Environmental Benefits: Solar PV systems significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making you an active participant in British Columbia’s growing green energy sector. By choosing solar energy, you also decrease your reliance on utility-generated electricity, helping to alleviate environmental impacts like land flooding, ecosystem disruption, and GHG emissions.

  • Energy Independence: Installing a solar PV system empowers you to take control of both energy production and consumption. It allows you to offset your energy needs with renewable generation, especially when combined with an electric vehicle (EV), further reducing your dependence on traditional energy sources.

  • Reliability and Maintenance: In areas like Victoria, BC, solar PV systems are known for their durability, typically requiring minimal maintenance over their 30+ year lifespan. Natural elements like rain often handle the cleaning of panels. These systems come with substantial warranties, ensuring long-term efficiency and peace of mind.

  • Financial Advantages: Investing in a solar PV system in Vancouver Island means locking in your electricity rates for over 30 years. As BC Hydro rates are subject to increase, solar energy can provide a more stable and potentially lower cost compared to traditional energy sources. This investment not only helps manage future energy costs but also adds value to your property. The return on investment should be considered in light of the escalating cost of utility power, with many systems offering competitive returns with low risk.

For first-time solar panel installation in BC, homeowners should start by understanding their energy needs and the suitability of their property for solar installation. Key considerations include roof condition, orientation, and shading. It’s advisable to consult with a professional solar provider like Hakai Energy Solutions to get a site assessment and a clear understanding of the potential solar power output and the financial aspects, including costs, savings, and available incentives. Understanding the basics of solar panel operation, maintenance, and net metering will also be beneficial.

A range of solar grants, incentives, and rebates are periodically available throughout British Columbia and Canada. They range in value, are often first-come first-serve and are capped at either a number of applicants or a dollar amount.

The Canada Greener Homes Federal loan program offers up to $40,000, interest-free, for homeowners to complete energy retrofits to their homes. Learn more about this program, and how it can apply to your solar installation on our grants and incentives page

Renewable Energy Equipment is PST-exempt under the BC tax code.

Grid-tied PV systems also enable you to receive direct value or credit for 100% of your solar production. Check out the BC Hydro Net-Metering Program for more information.

As BC Hydro energy prices continue to rise, the value of solar energy increases at the same rate. This represents a compounding interest, resulting in an exponential payback curve to the homeowner.

With an average annual rate of return of 10% over the system’s lifespan, solar systems typically pay themselves off in 10 years and generate 3 to 4 times their value within the system’s lifetime. This makes solar a stable, low-risk investment opportunity.

Research into the North American housing market shows that solar energy systems add approximately twice their installation cost to a home’s resale value. When combined with available grant and loan incentives, solar energy systems offer a reliable and lucrative value proposition for homeowners.

There are a range of solar grants, tax incentives, rebates, and interest-free loans available throughout BC and Canada for both residential and commercial scale solar projects.

Greener Homes Program – Loan

  • Minimum loan of $5,000, Maximum loan of $40,000
  • Repayment term: 10 years, interest-free
  • Loan type: Unsecured personal loan on approved credit 
  • A maximum of one loan is available per eligible property and homeowner.

Greener Homes Program – Grant

  • Up to $600 for pre- and post-retrofit EnerGuide evaluations and expert advice so you can begin to plan your retrofits up to $5,000 total to help you make energy-efficiency retrofits to your home

When assessing the cost of solar installation in Vancouver Island, it’s essential to understand the components that contribute to the overall price. Quite often, the contractor providing the lowest cost will not provide the best quality products or most optimum installation.

Costs for a solar installation typically will include:

  • Site survey
  • System design and electrical drawings
  • Electrical permit (and a building permit in some jurisdictions)
  • BC Hydro Net-Metering application
  • Equipment delivery and crew travel to the site
  • Installation of racking, inverters, wiring, and solar modules
  • Labeling
  • Testing and commissioning of PV energy system
  • Set-up and commissioning of a monitoring system
  • Site clean-up
  • Documentation and financial summaries
  • Post-installation training and technical support
  • Warranty coverage

Hakai provides a written account of the costs and responsibilities covered in the quote. We include applicable building/electrical permit fees, electrical drawings, net-metering applications, travel expenses, monitoring equipment, and warranty support in the quote.

Hakai provides free estimates based on the above. Contact us for more information!

Grid-tied Solar, Hybrid or Grid-tied with Energy Storage, and Off-Grid Solar. Each type serves different needs and setups, from urban homes to remote locations.

  • Grid-tied Solar: Solar PV energy systems can be installed and connected to buildings existing electrical services. Renewable energy production typically offsets the utility consumption in the home or business. Excess energy can be exported to the grid and credited or sold at a set rate to BC Hydro. Click here to read more about grid-tied solar.
  • Hybrid or Grid-tied with Energy Storage: A grid-tied system with energy storage incorporates storage capacity which can be drawn from in the event of a utility power outage. This type demands more capital investment but provides a secure system for your critical loads.

Off-Grid Solar: A PV installation can also be configured as a stand-alone system to supply power where no utility service exists (off-grid). An off-grid system often incorporates batteries and a  back-up generator. These installations are set in place to supply power to an entire facility, a residence, or small stand-alone loads such as lighting, an irrigation pump, or instrumentation. Click here to read more about off-grid solar.

In BC, especially in places like Vancouver Island, rooftops are the preferred spots for solar arrays, using existing structures to minimize costs and environmental impact. Ideal for both metal and asphalt shingle roofs, these installations can adapt to various roof orientations. South-facing slopes are optimal, but east/west orientations can work well with additional panels. For aged or deteriorating roofs, re-roofing might be necessary to align with the solar array’s lifespan.

When it comes to inverters, you have two main choices in BC homes: string inverters and micro-inverters. String inverters, about the size of a small suitcase, are typically mounted near the home’s main electrical panel, like in garages or utility rooms. For homes without a suitable space, micro-inverters offer a great alternative, installed directly behind the solar panels on the roof. Both types are designed for safety, noise reduction, and seamless home energy integration. It’s important to discuss with your solar provider the best location and inverter type for your specific needs and home layout.

Grid-tied photovoltaic systems (home solar) in BC should be pre-approved by your utility provider before electrical interconnection can be completed. BC Hydro offers a ‘Net Metering Program’ that handles all requests from customers who want to connect a new renewable energy source to their existing electrical utility. The administrative team at Hakai aids clients with Net-Metering applications. The process is efficient and user-friendly, making it simple for homeowners to apply. There are no fees associated with applying for net metering interconnection.

Once the system is completed and inspected, we must submit our electrical contractor’s Authorization & Declaration of Compliance or Certificate of Electrical Inspection to Technical Safety BC. Once approved by BC Hydro and TSBC, your new solar energy system is ready to operate.

Hakai will provide assistance in the application process to ensure correct documentation and communication occurs.

In the South Okanagan-Kootenay area, FortisBC operates the electrical utility. Five BC municipalities have their electrical utilities, including New Westminster, Nelson, Grand Forks, Penticton, and Summerland, each has its own “net-metering” program, and specific details may vary.

In British Columbia, particularly in coastal areas like Vancouver Island, solar PV systems are efficient despite common myths about inadequate sunshine. A standard 10kW solar system installed in this region is expected to produce around 11,000 kWh yearly, aligning with the typical annual consumption of a BC household. This efficiency supports homeowners in achieving net-zero energy status by balancing their yearly energy usage with solar production.

In Vancouver Island’s diverse climates solar panels require minimal maintenance for optimal performance. Regular cleaning to remove debris or bird droppings suffices, aided by natural rainfall. Durability against weather elements is a key feature, ensuring long-term efficiency. Inverter warranties, usually spanning 10 years and often extendable, add to the system’s reliability. Understanding local weather patterns can inform the best practices for solar panel maintenance in Victoria and other cities on Vancouver Island.

Solar panels in British Columbia, including snowy regions, maintain effective energy production during winter months. Contrary to intuition, cold temperatures can enhance solar panel efficiency. Proper installation angles help in snow shedding, and the reflective nature of snow can even boost solar energy capture. Homeowners considering solar energy in BC should be aware of these winter performance characteristics, ensuring their system design accounts for local winter conditions.

Learn more about snow management

Solar panels in BC are designed to be highly efficient even during the rainy season. While rainfall will reduce solar panel efficiency, it also helps clean the panels, maintaining their performance. Modern solar technology ensures that even during overcast conditions, panels can still capture and convert sunlight into usable energy. In regions like Vancouver Island, where the rainy season is prominent, solar systems are installed considering the angle and orientation for optimal light absorption year-round.

During power outages, solar energy systems in British Columbia are equipped to automatically shut down, resuming operation once grid power is restored. This feature ensures safety for utility workers and system integrity. Homeowners can opt for additional solutions like battery storage systems or backup generators to maintain power during outages. The Tesla Powerwall, for instance, offers unique energy management capabilities, allowing homeowners to optimize their solar energy usage and maintain power self-sufficiency in BC.

A common criticism of solar is the upstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing. No method of electricity generation is perfect, and it is true that solar produces emissions in the extraction, processing, manufacturing, and transport stages. However, these emissions are far outweighed by the emissions saved throughout the productive lifespan of the system. Although dependent on a variety of factors, it is estimated that most Solar PV systems save the amount of energy used to produce them within 1 to 4 years of use.

Additionally, it is important to remember that by weight, solar panels are 76% comprised of glass which is manufactured no differently for solar. Many manufacturers of solar products are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to the creation of materials and have established emission reduction, responsible sourcing, and electrification plans.

While British Columbia is known for its clean hydropower, the reality of energy sourcing is more complex. BC Hydro is part of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), meaning that it trades power with other regions. This trade is necessary to meet BC’s energy demands and maintain grid stability, especially as energy needs grow.

However, this power exchange means that not all electricity used in BC comes from hydropower. A significant portion is sourced from other jurisdictions, some of which rely on fossil fuels like natural gas and coal. In fact, within the WECC, a combined 45% of electricity was generated from natural gas and coal in 2021, with only 25% from hydropower.

Opting for solar photovoltaics in BC allows homeowners to reduce reliance on this mixed-source grid power. Solar energy offers a clean, renewable, and local energy source with low lifecycle emissions. It empowers BC residents to take control of their energy generation, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy system.

Want to know more?