Solar Colchester helps reduce the upfront cost of solar photovoltaic panels and allows property-owners to pay for them over time, making solar more affordable for Colchester residents and non-profit institutions.
- There are many benefits to participating in Solar Colchester:
- Install solar panels at a low upfront cost
- Get connected with a qualified and reputable solar installer
- Generate your own electricity and reduce your carbon footprint
- Be independent of volatile energy prices
- Invest in renewable energy
An important first step is to reduce energy demand before investing in solar electricity or any other renewable energy project. The Municipality recommends that anyone interested in solar explores efficiency improvement measures first, to minimize your building’s energy needs. This will reduce the number of solar panels required. Efficiency Nova Scotia offers $99 home energy audits, as well as rebates and financing for efficiency equipment: Home Energy Assessment.
The Municipality of Colchester will finance up to $20,000 of the total cost of an individual project. For many applicants, this means they will be able to install solar panels at no upfront cost through the Solar Colchester program, aside from a $1,000 deposit. For projects that are over $20,000, the property-owner is responsible for paying the remaining costs directly to the solar contractor. The total project cost depends on the number of panels needed to meet the building’s electricity demand and whether it is a roof- or ground-mounted installation.
The program has no long-term cost to the Municipality, as it is an investment which will be recouped over time. The Municipality will invest $300,000 in the program in each of the first three years of the program, to support the installation of 15-20 projects each year. This money will be recovered with interest over the following ten years.
The Municipality will pay the invoice from the solar contractor, up to $20,000, and the property-owner will make payments to the Municipality over ten years at fixed interest rate of Prime + 0.75%. The Municipality will use the Canadian Prime lending rate from the date that the property-owner signs the Participant Agreement.
When the installation is complete, the solar contractor and property-owner will both sign a Certificate of Completion, which gets submitted to the Municipality, at which point the Solar Energy Improvement Charge is levied on the property. The annual charge is equal to one tenth of the principal cost, plus interest.
Efficiency Nova Scotia offers a rebate for residential property-owners through its SolarHomes program, which helps reduce the cost of installation. As of November 1, 2019, the rebate can be up to $6,000, depending on the size and cost of installation. If you are participating in the program, the solar contractor will apply for the rebate on your behalf.
There is a $1,000 deposit required from participants, which is due at the same time the Participant Agreement is signed. The deposit can be paid by cheque, cash, or debit.
Property-owners can apply in person at 1 Church Street, Truro, in the Community Development office, or online.
The application form asks for property-owner name and contact information, the address of the project property, and brief information about the desired installation. The form is not long, and its purpose is simply to get enough information to add you to the list and allow the Finance department to check your property assessment and tax payment history. Applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis.
There is enough funding for the Municipality to finance 15-20 projects each year. Eighteen residential projects were approved in 2019.
Properties with the following building types are eligible for the program:
- I. an owner-occupied residential building with no more than one rental unit;
- II. an institutional building dedicated to religious worship, including auxiliary buildings such as an auditorium, hall, or day nursery owned and operated by the religious institution; or
- III. a building that houses a charity, a co-op, or a non-profit as its main use.
Mobile or mini homes that are not attached to a foundation are ineligible.
The Municipality will not look at applicants’ credit scores but will review the property assessment and tax payment history of the property. To be eligible for financing, the property must meet the following financial criteria:
- I. the property must have an assessed market value of at least $60,000;
- II. the financed cost must be no more than 25% of the assessed market value of the property (for example, a property assessed at $60,000 may only have up to $15,000 financed through the Municipality);
- III. the property must have no current taxes in arrears;
- IV. the property must have reasonable tax payment history; and
- V. other exceptional financial circumstances may make a property ineligible, at the discretion of the Finance department.
The solar contractor will conduct a site suitability assessment of your property to determine its energy generation potential. A property may be deemed unsuitable for solar photovoltaic based on its location, orientation, shading, roof structure, and other factors.
The ideal orientation for a rooftop installation is south facing, although east and west may be suitable as well. The slope (tilt) of the roof also plays a role. If there is enough space on the property, a ground-mounted solar array could be installed, providing perfect orientation and maximizing production. A ground-mounted system is considerably more expensive that a rooftop system.
Because the lifespan of solar PV panels is 25+ years, it is best to install them on a new or recently replaced roof, as the panels would have to be removed to replace the roof in the future. The solar contractor will also evaluate the suitability of your roof during the property suitability evaluation.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight directly into electricity using semi-conducting materials. Sunlight, also called solar radiation, is a renewable energy which emits no greenhouse gases in the process of generating electricity.
Net-metering is a process whereby your building can send electricity to and draw from the Nova Scotia Power grid, depending on how much electricity you are generating and consuming. The grid more or less serves as a battery for your property. For example, in the middle of the summer when your panels are producing a lot of power, energy will be sold to the grid. In the middle of the winter or at night when you are a using more electricity than the panels are producing, you can draw from the grid. Electricity usage in both directions is monitored using a bi-directional meter. At the end of the year, Nova Scotia Power will either send you a bill or write you a cheque, depending on if you have generated more or less than you’ve consumed.
In order to establish net-metering, you will be required to sign an Interconnection agreement with NSP and pay about $300 for a bi-directional meter. You will also still have to pay a monthly grid connection fee of $10.83. Nova Scotia Power’s Enhanced Net-metering Program is permitted and enforced by the Province of Nova Scotia’s Electricity Act.
How Net-Metering Works
- Solar Panels transform energy from the sun into electricity
- An inverter converts the electricity produced by the solar panels from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) for use in your home.
- Energy is used to power your house.
- A bi-drecitional tiility meter measures energy used from the electic gird and excess energy produced from your solar panels.
- Excess energy produced from your solar panels is distributed back into the electric grid.
- Energy used in your home is drawn from the electic gird.
Please note that Nova Scotia Power does not allow customers to use solar panels for income. NSP must sign off on the size of your installation before allowing a net-metering agreement, and the system is not permitted to be larger than what is necessary to meet your property’s energy demands.
Please see the following resources from Nova Scotia Power and NS Department of Energy and Mines regarding net-metering:
Power during outages
Regular net-metered solar systems do not allow you to generate and use solar electricity during a power outage; this is because your system is connected to the grid, and it would be dangerous for line workers for your system to be operational. It is possible to have a system that allows you to generate electricity during a power outage, but you would need to install a Smart Inverter that can isolate your system from the provincial energy grid, or install an energy storage system, such as lithium ion batteries. Energy storage can be expensive, which is why most people opt for net-metering. Talk to your solar contractor for more information about your energy storage options.
The product warranty for photovoltaic panels is typically 10 years and they usually have a design life and performance warranty of 25 years. Be sure to check with your contractor regarding the warranties included for your solar equipment. Many panels will outlast the warranty; however solar PV panels decrease in efficiency by about 1% every year, so even though they may be operational in 25 years, they will not generate quite as much electricity.
Solar energy is renewable energy. It is not finite like oil, coal, or gas, and it does not need to be burned to be consumed, and therefore emits no greenhouse gases. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of climate change and global warming. Solar panels absorb energy from the sun and convert it to usable electric energy.
Emissions from producing solar panels are also quite low, so even when you consider life-cycle emissions, solar remains one of the lowest-emitting methods of generating electricity.
Most installations require very little maintenance. Rain will usually do the job of cleaning the panels for you, and it is not recommended that you try to clear snow from the panels. Snow will melt off the panels rapidly given some sun. In locations with trees, it may be necessary to clean organic matter off the panels and other equipment from time to time.