Solar Colchester is a municipal Property Assessed Clean Energy (or “PACE”) program that allows eligible property owners in Colchester to install photovoltaic solar panels with financing assistance from the Municipality. Solar PV panels harvest clean energy from sunlight, which can save you money on your power bill and reduce your carbon footprint. Participants can pay for the project at an attractive interest rate over 10 years.
The program is available to homes with a single, owner-occupied dwelling unit and up to one rental unit, as well as certain non-profit institutions. See Eligibility under the “About the Program” tab for more information.
Residential applicants are eligible for the Efficiency Nova Scotia SolarHomes rebate, which can cover up to $6,000. Once you have applied to the Solar Colchester program, the solar contractor will apply for the rebate on your behalf.
Step 1 - Application
• Due to COVID-19 measures, you are required to make an appointment prior to coming into the office. Please call (902) 897-3168 to make an appointment. To start the process, complete the Solar Colchester online application form (under the Apply Today! tab), or drop into the office at 1 Church Street, Truro, to fill out an application in person.
• Applications will be considered on a first come first served basis. You will receive a confirmation of receipt once your application has been received.
• All applications will be reviewed by the Finance Department and you will be notified if your application is ineligible. See Eligibility under the 'About the Program' tab for more information.
• The Program Administrator will contact you to let you know whether your property is eligible for participation.
Step 2 – Choosing a Contractor
• Select a contractor from the Municipality’s List of Approved Contractors, available under the ‘List of Approved Contractors’ tab.
• It is recommended that you obtain quotes from three different contractors before making a decision. Each solar contractor will prepare a cost estimate for your project, including a breakdown of the costs, a payback calculation, and specifications for the products that will be installed. Your quote may also indicate how much funding you are eligible for from Efficiency Nova Scotia’s SolarHomes rebate program, or you can request this information.
• It is also good practice to ask your potential contractor for references from a previous project or two.
• Once you have selected a contractor you are happy with, please sign and date and submit a copy of your quote and site assessment to the Program Administrator.
Step 3 – Deposit and Participant Agreement
• There is a $1,000 deposit required from program participants when you sign the Participant Agreement to ensure that you are serious about following through with the project. The deposit will be subtracted from your first payment.
Step 4 – Installation
• The solar contractor will install solar panels on your home or building, as per the design and cost estimate.
• When the installation is complete, the solar contractor will submit a Certificate of Completion and invoice to the Municipality. The Municipality pays the invoice and levies a Solar Energy Improvement Charge against your property.
Step 5 – Annual Payments
• Once a year, you will be billed for the Solar Energy Improvement Charge, including any interest accrued up to that date. You can pay the Charge in the same manner as taxes.
• The fixed interest rate for your project will be determined at the time you sign the Participant Agreement and will be calculated using the current Prime lending rate plus 0.75%. For more information on the interest rate and payments, see Program Costs under the 'About the Program' tab.
Thank you for your interest! Due to the volume of applications received, we are currently not accepting new applications for Solar Colchester financing.
We anticipate that applications will reopen in Fall 2020.
Solar Colchester participants may select a contractor from the following list. All solar installations financed by Solar Colchester must be installed by a contractor on this list. Projects installed by a contractor not on this list are not eligible for municipal financing.
List will be updated in September 2020.
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: https://www.efficiencyns.ca/residential/services-rebates/home-energy-assessment/. The Municipality currently offers a $50 rebate on Home Energy Assessments. See the Home Energy Assessment Rebate Program tab.
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.
HOW TO APPLY
Property-owners can apply in person at 1 Church Street, Truro, in the Community Development office, or online at www.colchester.ca/solar under the Apply Today! tab.
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:
- an owner-occupied residential building with no more than one rental unit;
- 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
- 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:
- the property must have an assessed market value of at least $60,000;
- 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);
- the property must have no current taxes in arrears;
- the property must have reasonable tax payment history; and
- 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: https://nslegislature.ca/sites/default/files/legc/statutes/electricity.pdf
Diagram from the State of Vermont Public Utility Commission (2019) demonstrating how net-metering works.
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:
Here is a helpful video from Wattsup Solar about 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 our 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.
Canadian Solar Industries Association Nova Scotia Go Solar Guide – Includes all the information you need to know about solar PV in a Nova Scotian context: https://www.cansia.ca/uploads/7/2/5/1/72513707/1910.05-nova_scotia_solar_guide-final.pdf
Solar Nova Scotia glossary – A glossary of terms relating to solar PV that might help you navigate the process of installing solar panels: http://www.solarns.ca/node/272
Other resources from Solar Nova Scotia: http://www.solarns.ca/index.php/discoverpvresources
Credit Union Atlantic financing – If you are ineligible for Solar Colchester but would still like to install solar panels, the CUA’s Energy Efficiency Financing program may be a good fit for you: https://www.cua.com/Home/ProductsAndServices/MortgagesandLoans/GoGreen/
Efficiency NS SolarHomes Program – Offers a rebate to residential property-owners interested in solar PV:
Home Energy Assessment Rebate
Home Energy Assessment Rebate Program
The Municipality of Colchester is offering a $50 rebate to 100 homeowners who complete a Home Energy Assessment through Efficiency Nova Scotia. The regular cost of a Home Energy Assessment is $99 plus tax. The rebates will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.
A Home Energy Assessment is an evaluation of the efficiency of your home. A contractor will spend 2-3 hours reviewing your home from attic to basement and evaluating air leakage, insulation levels, and mechanical systems.
What you get:
- 2-3 hour energy audit of your entire home
- A report with your home’s EnerGuide rating and information about energy use
- A report prioritizing efficiency upgrades for your home
- A $50 rebate on the cost of the assessment from the Municipality of Colchester (after tax and the rebate, the remaining cost is $63.85)
- Access to up to $5,000 in rebates from Efficiency NS on qualifying upgrades (within 12 months of your Assessment)
How to get the rebate:
1. Sign up for the Municipality of Colchester’s Home Energy Assessment Rebate Program by filling out an online application HERE or in person by appointment at 1 Church Street, Truro. You must sign up before completing the Assessment to be eligible for the rebate.
2. Contact an approved contractor to set up a Home Energy Assessment. You can find the approved list of contractors at https://www.efficiencyns.ca/residential/services-rebates/home-energy-assessment/.
3. Complete the Home Energy Assessment. Pay the contractor for the Assessment ($99+tax).
4. Wait to receive your efficiency report and upgrades report from the contractor.
6. You will receive your $50 rebate in the mail (or you can arrange to pick it up).
Rental units are not eligible for a Home Energy Assessment through Efficiency NS, but they do qualify for Free Energy Efficient Product Installation, which can result in significant energy savings. Visit www.efficiencyns.ca for more information.
COVID-19 Safety Measures
Efficiency Nova Scotia and its partners will be taking the following measures to ensure safety during the ongoing pandemic:
• Maintaining social distancing between staff and customers.
• Screening for symptoms and other health-related safety considerations before making a visit to your home or business.
• Ensuring gathering limits are followed where social distancing cannot be maintained due to location size.
• Wearing non-medical masks and gloves while working in your home or business.
• Mandatory training on proper procedures to put on and remove non-medical masks and gloves.
• Using hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and cleaners.
• Frequent cleaning of equipment and high touch areas of vehicles.
• Electronic document submission wherever possible.
Visit https://www.efficiencyns.ca/covid-19-update/ for more information.