Solar Photovoltaic Cells for the Kingston Home FAQ

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Kingston Solar Array FAQ
Solar Array Example.jpg

A roof-top photovoltiac (PV) array installed in Bensheim, Germany. PV arrays convert solar energy into electrical energy which can be used in the installed location or connected to a distribution grid.

A solar cellW, or photovoltaic (PV) cell Photovoltaics, is a device that converts solar energy into electrical energy via the photoelectric effectW. A solar arrayW is a grouping of individual solar cells that are electrically connected to produce electrical power. By installing a solar array, users can generate electricity for their personal use or for distribution on a connected electrical grid. Solar arrays can offer environmental and financial benefits for both the homeowner and the community at large. Many people are curious about solar technology and this page aims to answer questions relating directly to photovoltaics in general and also addresses specific questions related to installing a PV array in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


The questions are grouped into the following categories:

  • Technological
  • Financial
  • Administrative
  • General
  • Feed in Tariff (FIT) FAQs

For a summary of solar in Kingston see SWITCH's http://switchkingston.com/microfit.php

Contents

[edit] Technological FAQs

[edit] How do solar cells work?

Solar cells function by converting electromagnetic radiation (primarily light from the sun) into electrical energy. Solar cells convert light into electricity using the photoelectric effectW. When light strikes the active material in a photovoltaic cell, the light (in the form of photonsW) promotes electronsW in the material to a higher state of excitement. To maintain charge neutrality, an excited electron will also have a corresponding ‘hole’ that balances the electron’s charge. The excited electron will eventually come back down and re-united with an electron hole, so a solar cell needs to collect the electrons and holes before this occurs. A P-N junctionW can be used to collect the electrons and holes, generating an electrical potential that allows a current to flow. Solar cells are often discussed in terms of efficiency, which is a measure of how much electrical power is output per unit of incident light input power. For example, if a solar array has an overall efficiency of 10% and an exposed area of 1 square meter, the expected electrical power output would be 10 watts if the incident light irradianceW was 1000 watts per square meter.

A substantial amount of information on the technical workings of photovoltaic exists on the Internet. Several good starting resources can be found here:


[edit] What are the advantages and disadvantages to using solar energy?

Some of the significant advantages of generating power from photovoltaic cells include:

  • Low operating and maintenance costs once the panels are installed.
  • Environmentally friendly source of renewable energy. Reduces reliance on more carbon-intensive or GHG-intensive energy generators such as coal or fossil fuels.
  • Independence from utility companies can either reduce/eliminate utility costs or serve as another income stream to the household.

Some of the disadvantages to meeting your power needs with solar PV technologies:

  • Capital-intensive projects (large amount of money required to start producing, primarily in purchasing the panels)
  • The cost of solar energy on a per-watt basis is high compared to other forms, such as natural gas. As demand continues to grow and power outages become common, this gap is being closed.
  • Producing power from solar PV is sensitive to weather conditions (i.e. snow or cloud cover), and no power is generated at night.

For more information, check out some of these articles:

[edit] What are the different types of solar cells?

Solar cells can be constructed in a number of different methods and from different materials. The field of photovoltaics is continuously advancing with new developments and technologies being explored. Solar cells are often catagorized as first, second, or third generation technology. Currently, the world commercial production focuses on first generation solar cells, with a small, but expanding, portion of the market devoted to second generation technology. Third generation photovoltaics are being heavily researched and are primarily found in research labs and satellite/space applications.

  • First generation solar cells: The photovoltaic industry began around crystalline silicon and the first solar cells made using pure crystalline silicon are commonly referred to as first generation. These cells use a single junction and have high efficiencies, but use a large amount of pure crystalline silicon, making the technology relatively expensive. Most of the current market share belongs to first generation devices.
  • Second generation solar cells: In an effort to reduce the cost of solar cells, a second generation of photovoltaic devices was investigated and is characterized by devices using very small amounts of source material. By reducing the material required per cell, the overall cost is reduced compared to first generation devices. However, second generation technologies do not have the high efficiencies obtained by the pure crystalline silicon devices found in the first generation of solar technologies. Second generation photovoltaics are commonly called 'thin-film' solar cells, due to the small amount of material required as compared to first generation technology. Common thin-film technologies include amorphous silicon, cadium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide. As well, new advances into dye-sensitized and organic/polymer photovoltaics are emerging technologies. Second generation solar technologies are currently beginning to expand into the consumer market.
  • Third generation solar cells: The third generation of photovoltaics aims to achieve the high efficiencies of the first generation and the low cost of the second generation devices. Third generation technologies are under siginificant research in efforts to push the obtained efficiencies to new records using novel techniques such as multi-junction cells. Multi-junction cells can be visuallized as several cells stacked on top of each other, with each cell optimized for a different part of the optical spectrum. This allows for more effective collection of all wavelengths of light and a higher overall efficiency. Third generation solar cells are currently found mainly in research labs and universities.


The table below illustrates the current record efficiencies for various photovoltaic technologies. Note that these efficiencies are without the use of light concentrators. With light concentrators, the highest record cell is a multi-junction cell that has a measured 40.8% efficiency.[4]


PV Technology Generation Highest Achieved Efficiency (Lab cells)
Crystalline silicon First generation 25.0%
Amorphous/nanocrystalline silicon Second generation 10.1%
Cadmium telluride Second generation 16.7%
Copper indium gallium selenide Second generation 19.4%
Dye-sensitized Second generation 10.4%
Organic/polymer Second generation 5.1%
Multi-junction cells Third generation 32%

[edit] Does the efficiency of a solar cell decrease over time?

The efficiency of solar cells does decrease over time due to harmful ultraviolet ray degradation, but this effect is small. Generally speaking, solar cells can be expected to last over 20 years.[5] Companies will often offer warranties between 10-25 years on their solar panels or greater depending on the company. A good discussion on the lifespan of PV modules can be found here.


[edit] Does Kingston have enough solar energy for solar panels to be feasible? What about winter?

Yes. In fact, Canada has a very comparable or higher insolation than other countries who have been successful in large-scale solar PV deployment, such as Japan and Germany. Kingston has a higher solar flux than expected for this part of Canada.

See a global solar insolation map


[edit] How do I know that solar power can work on my roof?

In general, a site investigation can be done to assess the solar resource available on your roof. Solar electric power works for most homes where direct sunlight is available. Shading from trees or other obstructions can reduce the practicality of a specific installation. A south-facing roof area is optimal, but solar electric panels can be mounted on west- or east- facing roofs and still produce better than 90 percent of the power of a true south roof mounting.[6]

It should be noted that you can lose up to 20% in an ideal situation (no shading profile, optimum tilt angle) for an east facing roof. Interestingly enough, if you lay it flat on the ground, you can lose about 13%.

[edit] What other options do I have if the system cannot be mounted on my roof?

If a roof-mounted system proves impractical, a ground-mount, trellis or pergola application may be an option.[7] Under the Feed in Tariff, any residential PV application less than 10kW will recieve the maximum contract price. [8]

[edit] Are solar panels environmentally friendly?

Yes, solar panels are environmentally friendly. The main concern regarding the environmental benefit of solar panels is the amount of energy required to manufacture them, in order to address this concern the energy payback time of solar panels has been determined. The energy payback time (EPT) of a technology is commonly defined by the following equation:

\, EPT = \frac{EnergyIn (MWh)}{AnnualEnergyOutput (MWh/year)}

This equation takes into account the energy required for manufacturing and installation (EnergyIn) and compares it to the annual energy output (EnergyOutput). The EPT of a panel is dependent on many factors such as manufacturing process, the panel efficiency, the amount of carbon in the electricity mix where the panel is manufactured, the geographical location of where the panel is operating along with many other factors. That being said many Life Cycle Analyses have been conducted on solar photovoltaic panels and a range of payback times have been determined, Alsema and Fthenakis found a range of EPT of 1-2.7 [9] years while the National Renewable Energy Laboratory NREL found EPTs ranging from 1-4 years. An EPT has not yet been determined for Kingston, Ontario however with average panel life times of 20 – 30 years even with higher EPT the solar panels continue to be environmentally friendly.

[edit] Can they be recycled?

While there are many types of solar cells available, most of the current photovoltaic technologies are fully recycleable. The majority of commerical solar cells are primarily made of silicon, which can be fully recovered. A number of different chemical processes can be used to recycle the silicon in the photovoltiac cells into pure silicon wafers. As well, the glass, aluminum frame and electrical wiring can be recovered and recycled.[10] Recycling of solar panels is economically attractive as most of the raw silicon processing steps can be bypassed when using recycled materials.[11] The recycling process is currently done by several companies such as SolarMaterial. For other photovoltaic technologies, such as Group-III thin film technologies, the material components can still be recovered but the recycling technolgies are not as well established as silicon-based photovoltaic recycling. For example, cadmium telluride photovoltaicsW can be recovered using a pyrolysisW process.[12] It is also important to note that the long lifespan of photovoltaic panels (upwards of 20-30 years) will allow for the further development of recycling technologies.

Some manufacturer's indicate recycling in their goals:[1] First Solar recycling program [2]


[edit] Are solar panels safe?

Solar panels are as safe, if not safer, than other options for power generation. Because the cells produce electricity that would otherwise be made by more polluting forms of power generation, use of solar cells can increase air quality.

Most solar cells are made from silicon, which is the primary component of sand. While other cells are made from thin films of metal (such as CdTe, CIGS and IGN) these metals are safely contained within the cell and do not pose health risks [13]. Because solar cells generate electricity, however, precautions must be taken when installing them and users should exercise the same caution they would with a wall socket [14].


[edit] Are there certified installers and retailers in Kingston?

Several retailers and installers can be found at SWITCH, where they are maintaining an up-to-date list of installers and resellers.

These include:

  1. Downunder Solar and Electrical
  2. Strathcona Solar
  3. Eco Alternative Energy
  4. Quantum Renewable Energy Inc.
  5. Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow Inc.

These companies will help you through the entire process of recommending incentives, financial planning, the assessment, installation, inspection, applying for incentives and the FIT and getting connected to the grid.

[edit] What is the warranty on solar panels?

Nowadays, standard monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels both have established proven track records with life expectancies that exceed 40 years. Manufacturers of these proven technologies are now comfortable offering warranties of 25 years or more.

"Recently, relatively new technologies have been developed that have not been on the market long enough to establish a performance record, so sometimes you'll see solar panels with warranties of less than 25 years. You may be thinking 20, 25 years what's the difference ? But what you need to ask yourself is, in such a competitive market, why would a manufacturer offer a 20 year warranty when everyone else is offering a 25 year warranty. When you consider that established technologies should last 40 years, the answer should be pretty obvious."[15]

E.g. SunPower Warranty and Specs [3][4]

Ask the Expert, Homepower: PV Longevity and Degradation

PV warranties typically allow for 20 percent output degradation over the module’s 20- to 25-year warranty life. But measurements of many modules put into service in the 1980s show that it’s unusual to see even half that much degradation. Many of those earliest modules still perform to their original specifications. It is safe to say that modules carrying warranties of 20 years or more have a high probability of working well 30 years from now.


[edit] What do the terms on-grid, grid-connected, grid-tied and off-grid mean?

On-grid, grid-connected or grid-tied means connected to the utility electrical grid; power produced by the panels is fed directly to the main power grid in the city. Off-grid refers to systems that are not connected to the utility electrical grid; all power generated by the panels is either stored or used by the building they are fixed to. An off-grid system must be custom designed by a solar power expert. [16]


[edit] What are the logistical requirements for connecting to the grid?

It is ultimately the homeowner's responsibility to get permission from Kingston Hydro to connect to the grid. Typically, however, most installers will contact the utilities on behalf of the homeowners - discuss this with your installer. The utilities will then visit the home to set up the connection and a fee will be charged. Finally, the installer is responsible for getting ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) connection authorization upon connection[17][18].

Specific details about how to connect to the grid will be released with the official release of the FIT in July.

The following resources are available if you are interested in learning more about connecting to the grid:

- Kingston Hydro Guide for Distributed Generators[19]

-Utilities Kingston's Guidelines for Electricity Generators


[edit] What if bird droppings fall on my panel?

Amir, Ha

[edit] What if a projectile or object hits my panels (roof top or ground mounted)?

Amir, Ha

[edit] What does "energy conversion efficiency" mean?

The amount of solar energy that strikes a place on the earth is measured in units of power per unit of area per unit time; more commonly Watts/m2/year. This solar energy we typically think of as the heat we feel from the sun on a bright day, but is even more plentiful (and more useful, from a photovoltaics perspective) as the light part of the sun's energy that often gets forgotten. The amount of this incoming 'light' energy that is converted to useful electrical energy that we use to power our appliances and gadgets is known as the energy conversion efficiency. This value depends on several factors including the type of cell, the material it is made from, the age of the cell, the amount of shade covering the cell, the angle of incidence of the incoming light (i.e. the position of the sun relative to the horizon), the surface temperature of the cell, and many other factors.


[edit] Will my system work on cloudy days?

Unfortunately, clouds will have a negative impact on the performance of your solar array, as the intensity of the sun’s energy reaching your panels is less. No lasting effects are felt by the panels; when the sun comes back out, they return to their expected efficiency[20]. It is important to note that although performance will be reduced, your cells will continue to make some power! [21]


[edit] Why is shade a problem?

Shade is a problem because solar photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s light rays directly into electricity. Shade blocks radiation from reaching the panel, preventing the panel from producing electricity.


[edit] What happens if there is a power outage?

If the solar array is grid connected with no battery storage then in the event of a power outage the residence will lose power however there will be no damage to the panels, building etc. If the panels were installed with the intention of providing power directly to the home and the batteries are charged, the residence should continue to have power.


[edit] Can the modules withstand high winds and hail?

In 1978, D. Moore et al tested the ability of solar panels to withstand hail by projecting frozen ice spheres traveling at terminal velocity into the panels. When the cell was protected by a 0.188 in thick acrylic sheet, it was able to withstand a 2 in diameter hailstone without damage [22] More recently ASTM standard IEEE 1262 states that a PV panel intended for power generation must be able to withstand the impact of a 1-in diameter ice ball traveling at 52 mph (83.7km/h)


[edit] How long will my solar power system last?

A solar array should last at least 20-30 years if properly maintained. Various system components may required some small maintenance in this time period, notably the battery array if the solar system is an off-grid system.

[edit] Can I be totally independent from the utility?

Depending on the size and demand of your home, you could install an array which would power all of your home's electrical needs. However, you would not recieve payments for the electricity you produce because you must be connected to the utility grid in order to reap the benefits of the feed-in tariff program. This way, the grid can absorb the power produced by your solar array and there is no need for costly batteries to store the energy when your home is not using it. The net effect, however, is the same because the renewable energy produced by your array displaces other, dirtier forms of energy.


[edit] What is the difference between Solar Thermal and Solar Electric (Photovoltaic) Panels?

Solar Thermal technologies capture the sun’s heat, usually for direct use to heat water, air or swimming pools. A solar thermal panel is usually a flat plate collector that consists of a metal box with a glass or plastic cover and a black absorber plate at the bottom, with tubes inside that hold the fluid to be heated[23]. Solar Photovoltaic panels, on the other hand, use the sun’s light to produce electricity which can then be used for all sorts of applications. They look somewhat different from to solar thermal panels. The FIT program applies to Photovoltaic panels only.


[edit] Can I add reflectors/concentrators/trackers to the solar array installation to increase the power they generate?

Solar cells will produce more electricity if the incident light is concentrated by using mirrors or reflectors. Concentrating the light through optics and reflectors can be an economical way to improve the power capacity of a system. An example of a light concentrator device is a fresnel lens system, and an example of using this technology with solar cells can be found here.

Solar trackersW are devices operate by changing the angle of the solar panels to follow the sun as it moves across the sky. With the solar panels facing the sun for most of the day, the power generated is larger than the power generated without the tracker installed. Trackers come in a variety of options depending on the different number of rotational axis used to track the sun. The cost of the tracker often is not worth the additional power increase they provide.

It is important to be aware of the concentrator and tracking options for solar installations, but the cost often does not justify their installation. It is a good idea to ask about them when consulting with a company for a roof-top solar installation. A good resource on solar trackers/concentrators can be found here.

[edit] Financial FAQs

[edit] What is the Feed in Tariff (FIT) and how does it affect me?

The Feed in Tariff (FIT) is a fixed price incentive, offered by the Ontario Power Authority to increase the amount of renewable energy generation in Ontario, while providing reasonable returns (income) to those that wish to generate green energy, like solar energy.

Under the FIT Price Schedule, Residential Solar PV Panels recieve the highest contract price (also the highest in the world), which should be a high enough incentive for someone who wants to use PV panels on their home and help the environment, while getting a steady additional income stream.


[edit] How can I get a site investigation and financial feasibility study done on my house?

Local companies will be happy to come to your house and investigate the feasibility of putting solar on your property. They may charge you a fee which is refundable upon purchase of their product.

  • Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow [5]
  • Quantum Renewable Energy Inc [6]
  • Down Under Solar [7]
  • Eco Alternative Energy [8]

These companies will help you through the entire process of recommending incentives, financial planning, the assessment, installation, inspection, applying for incentives and the FIT and getting connected to the grid.

Another interesting resource about being smart about solar and asking questions is found here: [9]


[edit] Does it cost me to apply for the FIT?

NO. Residential projects <10 kW will also qualify for a simplified application process.

Projects larger than 1MW will require development fees.[24]


[edit] Will Solar Panels affect the property value of my house?

Solar Panels are an addition to your house, like other appliances. They are not permanent fixtures and can be moved at any time. Thus, they should not affect the property value of your house for any reason, even property taxation.

If you choose to include the panels when selling your house, you can then make an arrangement to increase the sale value of the house, which is separate from the actual property value.


[edit] Can I sell my panels to the manufacturer or other users second hand?

At the end of the life of your panels, some manufacturers will take their product back for proper recycling. One such company is First Solar. The only responsibility the user has is to remove the panels from their roofs and pack them in the box provided by First Solar. Shipping and recycling costs are all paid by the company. More information is available here: [10]. Note: They will not purchase the panels from you if you wish to remove them before the end of their useful life. Some people have had success selling their unwanted panels on Craig’s list or EBay.


[edit] Are Solar panels too expensive to install to give me back a reasonable return?

Solar PV cells used to be very expensive, but leaps in technology are making them more affordable. Manufacturing companies are reaching prices that are competitive with fossil fuel production.

Are solar and renewable energies are a good investment? Yes.

The payback period and rate of return on investment depends on your solar resource, roof orientation, capacity of you solar system and the method of financing. In Kingston, with taxes included, a small 1 kW system on a south facing house with a 45 degree angle can give rates or return upwards of 4.8% and payback less than 11 years. As prices for solar systems fall, this rate of return can get as high as 14.3%. The yearly revenue, without deductions, is $1107/year for the 1 kW system. The larger the system on your house, the higher the rate of return. [25]

This is a resource for the Economics of Solar. Since prices of systems have been falling, the current rate of returns are higher than those reported here. You can also do your own financial analysis using RETScreen, a free resource provided by Natural Resources Canada.

A quick way to roughly estimate the amount of money you can earn is by using the following formula:[26]

(Capacity of project) x (Capacity Factor) x (Hours) x (FIT price)

Generally, a rough estimate of the capacity factor for solar PV is 13%. So, if you had a 3 kW project, in one year, you might earn:

3kW x 13% x (365 x 24h) x $0.802/kWh = $2740

To get a more accurate estimate, we recommend using tools such as RETScreen, or PVWatts. These tools take into account specific details of your equipment and your location.

An interesting guide about solar prices in the US: Making Sense of Solar-Electric Prices

Source: www.homepower.com


[edit] How do I get financing?

Financing can be obtained via a loan from the bank.

Financing options include:[27]

  • Green Loans

Some financial institutions now offer special financial packages for energy efficiency improvements. See Alterna Savings, Citizen Bank of Canada, RBC, TD Bank, CIBC and ask others.

  • Leasing Options

This will allow you a fixed income for leasing your roof. It takes away the risks and upfront cost, but greatly reduces your overall potential income from the solar cells.

  • Green Mortgages

Add the solar panels into your existing mortgage.

Visit Go Solar

Some of the installers and retailers listed on this page have discounts for systems that can reduce your cost. Some will return your payment for assessment and design granted that you buy a system. They can also advise you about current government incentives. Whilst few are listed now, they keep up to date with this information.


Another way to reduce the cost (payback) is to consider a commercial model for the panels as electric power generators. Accelerated depreciation can be used to reduce your taxes.

Exemptions under the Assessment Act of Ontarioexist:[Property assessable and taxable, exemptions]

Machinery for producing electric power

18. All machinery and equipment including the foundations on which they rest to the extent and in the proportion used for producing electric power for sale to the general public but not including any buildings, structures, structural facilities or fixtures used in connection therewith.


[edit] What maintenance does the system require? How much does the maintenance cost?

There is negligible maintenance required. Since grid-tied systems do not require a battery system, the cost and associated maintenance or replacement is removed. GE Energy/Power recommends that the installer do a system check once a year, just to make sure everything is performing as it should. If it is convenient, you can hose off the modules two or three times a year.[28]. In general, the rain can wash them off as well.

Since the maintenance required is very low, your cost should be minimal. Most of the related system components should last for many years without problems. [29] Maintenance costs can include any electrical parts that require replacement as with any electrical system. Often, parts like an inverter will be covered under the manufacturer's warranty.

Inverter Price Environment


[edit] What is an Inverter

An inverter converts the DC current from the solar cells to AC current which is used by the grid and homes alike. Solar Grid Connected Inverter

Email info@evsolar.com to get current prices on XantrexSolar Inverters. A 3300 W (3.3kW) solar inverter could cost approximately $2,000 [30] .


[edit] Will Insurance companies cover my panels?

Yes. It can be an addition to your home insurance. Other homeowner's in Ontario and in Kingston have gotten their panels insured under their home insurance. The panels are insured at market cost, and are like the additional items you insure in your home. One resource for getting insurance is this letter.


[edit] How is the FIT different from the RESOP? What about homeowners who are currently contracted under the RESOP program?

RESOP is an older energy contract agreement under the Government of Ontario. The main difference between the RESOP and the FIT are that FIT contract prices are differentiated by size and technology, and typically have a more beneficial rate of return [31].

Homeowners who are currently contracted under the RESOP program will see their contract through; however any new renewable projects will now be considered under the FIT [32].


[edit] What are the tax implications of the generation revenue I receive?

The income you receive is taxable at your marginal rate, and must be declared to the government. However, you can claim a capital cost allowance deduction of 50% per year on a declining balance basis to offset this income.

[edit] Are government incentives available to reduce the price?

There are no known incentives from the Federal government. The Ontario provincial government provides the previously mentioned FIT and a limited time retail tax rebate.

Incentives and programs [11]

Retail Tax Rebate: [12] The Solar Energy Systems Rebate returns the Retail Sales Tax (RST) paid on solar energy systems to homeowners or builders, who install the energy systems into residential premises, including multi-residential premises, or who expand or upgrade an existing solar energy system.

This rebate has been extended for qualifying systems that are purchased and installed in residential premises before January 1, 2010.

Home Renovation Tax Credit: It is stated that PV panels can fall under the Home Renovation Tax Credit. Please check to see that you are eligible for a tax credit of $1350.Examples of eligible and ineligible expenses

The credit will be based on eligible expenditures for work performed or goods acquired after January 27, 2009, and before February 1, 2010. Expenditures incurred pursuant to an agreement that was entered into before January 28, 2009, will not be eligible for the credit.

The credit will only be available for the 2009 tax year and applies to eligible expenditures of more than $1,000, but not more than $10,000, resulting in a maximum credit of $1,350 ($9,000 x 15%).

[edit] Are there discounts or other ways to reduce the cost of my system?

Some of the installers and retailers listed on this page have discounts for systems that can reduce your cost. Some will return your payment for assessment and design granted that you buy a system. They can also advise you about current government incentives. Whilst few are listed now, they keep up to date with this information.


Another way to reduce the cost (payback) is to consider a commercial model for the panels as electric power generators. Accelerated depreciation can be used to reduce your taxes.

Exemptions under the Assessment Act of Ontarioexist:[Property assessable and taxable, exemptions]

Machinery for producing electric power

18. All machinery and equipment including the foundations on which they rest to the extent and in the proportion used for producing electric power for sale to the general public but not including any buildings, structures, structural facilities or fixtures used in connection therewith.

[edit] Administrative FAQs

[edit] Steps for getting a solar power system

1. Contact one or more eligible installers. 2. Ensure site assessment is completed (if required). 3. Get price quotes and timing estimates. 4. Select an eligible installer. 5. Ensure all required permits and approvals are obtained. 6. Receive your acceptance from utility.(connection) 7. Figure out finances based on assessment. 8. Customer purchases and installs system.

[edit] Do I need approval from my homeowners’ association?

Some homeowners’ associations have rules regarding the installation of anything on your roof or grounds. If you belong to a homeowners’ association, consult your covenants for details.

[edit] If I rent a home or apartment, can I still get a system?

If you rent a home, you will need permission from your landlord to install solar panels on the roof. With this permission, however, you can obtain a system. It is possible to get separate meters from Utilities Kingston if your regular meter is used by your landlord or other tenants who are not investing in the solar panels [33].


[edit] What if I live in an apartment or don't have a south-facing roof?

You don't need a roof to participate in the FIT program! It is possible to rent someone else's roof space and install your own solar panels there. With the advent of the FIT program, it is likely that co-ops will be created which will make this accessible to many people[34].

[edit] Do I need permission from the local utility to connect my solar system to the grid?

Yes, you need permission from Kingston Hydro to connect to the grid. See "1.14 - What are the logistical requirements for connecting to the grid?" However, sometimes your installer will take care of this for you so talk to them first[35] [36].

[edit] What if I need a new roof or am building a new house?

If you need a new roof during the lifetime of your solar panels, the roofers can simply move your solar array to one side of the roof, install the new shingles, and then move the array back. This will likely add a few hundred dollars to the roof cost. In the event that your roof is too steep to move the panels, or you are building a new house, they will be placed on the ground during re-roofing or construction[37].

[edit] Are there case studies of solar co-ops or joint ventures in Ontario?

There are a number of housing co-operatives and multi-residential buildings who have successfully installed solar energy systems.

Woodgreen Co-op: This housing co-op in Toronto installed a solar thermal system in 2006. Learn more at: [13]

Waterloo Solar Community: Integrated photovoltaic systems on the rooftops of 12 new homes, totalling 42KW of installed Photovoltaic grid-tied systems. [14]

[edit] What other cities are taking on this venture? What financing options do they have?

Toronto has moved along quite quickly in developing projects and community co-ops. Our Power is one group doing that [15].

Toronto Solar Financing:


[edit] General FAQs

[edit] What happens if I move/ sell my house?

The FIT contract can be assigned to another homeowner if you sell your house. You can make arrangements for assigning the contract and selling the panels to the person.

Depending on where you are moving to, and your new home, you can arrange to take the cells with you and reinstall them. It all depends on the difference in roof specifications.


[edit] Does investing in Solar PV and other renewables help the economy and the environment?

Investing in renewable energy helps the environment because renewable energy generally causes less pollution than conventional forms of power generation [38]. Investing in Solar PV in particular can displace more polluting forms of energy, helping the environment and decreasing unsustainable practices.

Investing in renewable energy also helps the economy. For example, the renewable energy industry in Denmark employs 32000 people and brings in $ 10 billion in revenues annually [39]. More recently, investment in renewable energy has been part of the economic stimulus package in the United States [40]. Investments in renewable energy bring with them jobs and an international market, providing an opportunity for economic growth.


[edit] What support groups or resources exist in Kingston?

  1. SWITCH
  2. Utilities Kingston
  3. Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow


[edit] Can I install it myself?

Depending on the system, it is possible to install the panels yourself. If your system is designed for home installation, installing them yourself might take 1 to 2 days[41]

If you want to install panels yourself, there are a number of resources online about how to do it:

[edit] Feed in Tariff FAQs

More answers to FAQs regarding the FIT can be found at “Online Q&A”, OPA FIT

The Ontario FIT was launched on Sept. 30th 2009.

It is divided into microFIT and FIT. All residential projects should fit into microFIT.

See programs details and procedures here: MicroFIT Program

[edit] How long does it take to get a FIT contract?

The OPA plans on having the registration for micro-scale FIT projects to be available for FIT program launch. There will not be an `application process' per se for micro-scale generators. Provided the generator meets the eligibility requirements of the program, the OPA contracts will be offered almost automatically to the proponent upon connection of the project. Details of the program and process for micro-scale FIT generators will be available prior to program launch.

Rough Guidelines of Process:

  • Register System Capacity with OPA and obtain Reference No.
  • After 15 to 30days, apply to LDC for Connection Agreement
  • Meet with LDC to discuss the assessment of the system and electrical standards
  • Get Funding, Install System, Pay LDC connection costs, Get ESA certification of residential system
  • LDC connects system after all requirements are met and OPA contract begins

Entire process roughly 3 months. Contact Utilities Kingston for details.


[edit] What are the requirements to getting a contract?

Upon connecting your functioning renewable energy generating system to the grid, you can recieve an OPA FIT contract.

The FIT Program Rules are currently under development and are in draft form at the OPA website. The FIT would provide a much simpler application process for residential projects less than 10 kW.The FIT contract draft can be seen here [18][43]

Contract Terms and Conditions [19]

[edit] What income is generated by having solar panels?

The income generated depends on the orientation of your roof and the capacity of the solar panels deployed. See related question in the "Financial FAQs".

The proposed calculation of contract payment and inflation indexation can be found here [20].

[edit] Is the revenue generated from the solar panels taxable?

  • Yes. The electricity sold to the OPA is taxable. Asset depreciation accounting can be used to reduce your taxes.
  • Exemptions may be possible under the Assessment Act for certain types of property

The OPA will pay all Sales Taxes exigible on all amounts payable to a Supplier pursuant to a FIT Contract. The Supplier shall remain liable for all Taxes other than Sales Taxes in respect of the Contract Facility.The Contract Price does not include any Sales Tax payable by the OPA in respect of the Electricity and Future Contract Related Products purchased hereunder. If any Sales Tax is payable in connection with the Delivered Electricity and Future Contract Related Products purchased hereunder, such Sales Tax shall be paid by the OPA.

Some of the installers and retailers listed on this page have discounts for systems that can reduce your cost. Some will return your payment for assessment and design granted that you buy a system. They can also advise you about current government incentives. Whilst few are listed now, they keep up to date with this information.


Another way to reduce the cost (payback) is to consider a commercial model for the panels as electric power generators. Accelerated depreciation can be used to reduce your taxes.

Tax Incentives

Exemptions under the Assessment Act of Ontarioexist:[Property assessable and taxable, exemptions]

Machinery for producing electric power

18. All machinery and equipment including the foundations on which they rest to the extent and in the proportion used for producing electric power for sale to the general public but not including any buildings, structures, structural facilities or fixtures used in connection therewith.

Tax implicationsof solar panel roof: [21]

[edit] Is the FIT indexed for inflation?

  • The contract price is increased 20% relative to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Solar PVs, once in operation for the life of the contract.
  • The finalized program is not indexed for inflation for solar systems.

[edit] What if technology changes or the FIT is reviewed?

  • New costs or changes in technology do not affect existing contracts. Reviews only affect new contracts.

[edit] When do contracts begin?

  • The OPA contracts will be offered almost automatically to the proponent upon connection to the grid after an application process.

[edit] What if I sell my home? Is the contract transferrable to the new homeowner?

  • The OPA contract can be assigned to the new homeowner upon the sale of the home. The new homeowner would be receive payment for the remainder of the contract payment term.

[edit] Can I cancel my contract at any time?

Termination by the Supplier (a) If any OPA Event of Default occurs and is continuing, then upon written notice to the OPA, the Supplier may (i) terminate this Agreement and (ii) set off any payments due to the OPA against any amounts payable by the OPA to the Supplier. (b) Notwithstanding the foregoing, if applicable, the OPA shall be responsible for payment of amounts accruing under this Agreement only up to and including the Termination Date. The Supplier may hold back payment or set off against any payments owed by it if the OPA fails to comply with its obligations on termination.

If, by reason of Force Majeure, the Supplier is unable to perform or comply with its obligations (other than payment obligations) hereunder for more than an aggregate of 36 months in any 60 month period during the Term, then either Party may terminate this Agreement upon notice to the other Party without any costs or payments of any kind to either Party, except for any amounts that were due or payable by a Party hereunder up to the date of termination, and all security shall be returned or refunded (as applicable)forthwith. [44]

[edit] What if the price of electricity goes above the FIT rates?

[edit] Is the FIT a subsidy

No. FITs are not subsidies. [45]

[edit] Is there enough transmission and/or distribution capacity to connect all proposed renewable energy supply projects?

A plan to develop additional transmission and distribution will address the requirements to enable connection of additional renewable energy supply to be contracted for under the proposed FIT Program.

The Bruce-Milton expansion will relieve transmission constraints in Southern Ontario, therefore permitting additional contracting for renewable energy supply in that part of the Province.

Plans to expand transmission and distribution will enable additional contracting for renewable energy supply in Northern Ontario over the next years.

[edit] Provincial Content/ Domestic Content Schedule

Domestic Content

If you are applying for a solar PV microFIT contract, your project must meet domestic content requirements. These requirements ensure that a portion of your solar PV project is manufactured or produced in Ontario.

The minimum required amount of Ontario-based content will increase over time and is determined by the year that a project reaches commercial operation. The minimum requirements are:


Minimum Domestic Content Level Year of Commercial Operation

40% 2009 to 2010

60% 2011 and later


[edit] Provincial Content: Can you better define Section 2.1 b) from the draft FIT Program Rules about Provincial Content (Exhibit C).?

The provincial content requirement is an area that is currently under development by the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and other relevant Ministries. The draft Program Rules will reflect any decisions made in this area.

Section 2 of the draft Rules that refers to provincial content is meant to convey that the point at which any provincial content requirements are imposed will not be at the point of application, but will be imposed later in the process, closer the when the contract is to be awarded and the relevant equipment needs to be ordered. [22]


OPA serves up FIT answers -- provincial content still burning up the line

[edit] RESOP Projects: Are current RESOP Contract holders eligible to apply for the FIT Program?

The OPA realizes there are a number of homeowners and developers who have signed RESOP Contracts who now may want the proposed prices under the FIT program. Existing OPA contract management polices do not provide for generation developers to option from one contract to a new contract as a result of a better offer coming forward. All contracts signed are binding on both parties. The draft FIT Program Rules are consistent with this policy and reflect that once a Contract has been executed, it is considered final.

Throughout the ongoing development of the draft Program Rules over the next few months, options for ensuring the fair treatment of early movers under RESOP will be explored and discussed with stakeholders.


[edit] NEWS on Ontario FIT

The Kingston Whig Standard featured an article last week on the high volume of applications for the microFIT program and the subsequent backlog, http://www.thewhig.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2597534. SWITCH recently learned that the OPA are re-deploying lots of people to work on the backlog of rooftop solar microFIT applications. A significant number of applications should be completed by mid-June and they should be back on schedule by August.

Kingston: The Community Energy Partnerships Program (CEPP) covers up to 90% of eligible development costs to a maximum of $200,000 for community power projects greater than 10 kW and no larger than 10 MW. Come to the SWITCH open meeting on July 9th and join Laurie Arron, Program Director for the CEPP and discover what kinds of projects can apply to CEPP, who is eligible, what kinds of grants are available and what costs they cover. For more information on the program, visit http://www.communityenergyprogram.ca/Home.aspx.

Kingston: The 1000 Solar Rooftops Challenge will begin soon. Students will be going door to door, identifying homes with solar potential and delivering customized information to homeowners. The students will be available at various public events over the summer. SWITCH will be setting up a database of installed solar energy systems, recognizing the installers involved with the project.(June 1 2010)

[edit] Other Resources

[edit] Citations

  1. http://www.portablesolarpanels-forsale.com/solar-energy-facts Solar enegy facts. 2010.
  2. http://ezinearticles.com/?Solar-Energy-Advantages-Disadvantages&id=50178, Solar energy advantages and disadvantages. Anita Van Wyk, 2009.
  3. http://www.facts-about-solar-energy.com/about-us.html Facts about solar enegy. 2006.
  4. Martin, G., et al. Solar Cell Efficiency Tables (Version 33). Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications. (2009) 17: 85-94.
  5. Zimmerman, C.G. ‘’Time dependent degradation of photovoltaic modules by ultraviolet light’’, (2008). Applied Physics Letters, Volume 92, Issue 24. Available online at http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008ApPhL..92x1110Z
  6. GE Power, FAQs, http://www.gepower.com/prod_serv/products/solar/en/faqs/resid_sys.htm#faq10
  7. GE Power FAQs, http://www.gepower.com/prod_serv/products/solar/en/faqs/resid_sys.htm#faq10
  8. Revised FIT Price Schedule May 2009, http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/fit/Page.asp?PageID=122&ContentID=10180&SiteNodeID=1041&BL_ExpandID=
  9. Alsema, Fthenakis"Photovoltaics Energy Payback Times, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and External Costs: 2004 - early 2005 Status", Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 14, no.3 (2006):275-280
  10. Muller, A., Wambach, K., Alsema, E. ‘’Life Cycle Analysis of a Solar Module Recycling Process’’, (2003) Materials Research Society. Avaliable online at http://www.mrs.org/s_mrs/sec_subscribe.asp?CID=6228&DID=170203&action=detail
  11. Fthenakis, V.M.’’End-of-life management and recycling of PV modules’’, (2000) Energy Policy, Vol. 28, Issue 14. Pg. 1051-1058. Available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V2W-4177N2J-7&_user=1025668&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050549&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=1025668&md5=3ac8336c226cb9e89cac8f0b6381708b
  12. Patent for Process for recycling CdTe/Cds thin film solar cell modules. Available online at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6572782.html
  13. http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/999423
  14. http://www.solarhome.org/solarpanelsfaqs.html#faq13
  15. Eight questions to ask before buying a solar panel system,http://partsonsale.com/gridtiequestions.html, 2009
  16. http://www.gepower.com/prod_serv/products/solar/en/faqs/resid_sys.htm#faq9
  17. Discussion with Brad Leonard, Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow
  18. Discussion with Katy Simoes, Services Advisor, Utilities Kingston
  19. Kingston Hydro, Guidelines for Distributed Generators, http://www.utilitieskingston.com/pdf/electric/KHydro-ConditionsOfService_AppB-Generators_090128.pdf
  20. Carter, Alice. Annesley College. Photovoltaics: Solar Electricity and Solar Cells in Application. Online. http://www.annesley.sa.edu.au/amep/energyconservation_solarenergy/solarcells.htm
  21. Sunshine Solar. FAQ’s Solar Power. 2009. Online http://www.sunshinesolar.co.uk/khxc/gbu0-display/faq.html
  22. Moore, D. Wilson, A. Ross, R. “Simulated hail impact testing of photovoltaic solar panels.” Combined environments: Technology interrelations; Proceedings of the Twenty-fourth Annual Technical Meeting, Fort Worth, Tex., April 18-20, 1978 p. 419-430.
  23. (http://www.solarbuzz.com/Consumer/Solarthermal.htm)
  24. OPA’s Fit Application Process. June 4, 2009. Online. http://www.wind-works.org/FeedLaws/Canada/Gipe%20OPA%20FIT%20Process%20June%202009.pdf. June 12, 2009.
  25. K. Branker, Queen's Applied Sustainability Group, Summer 2009
  26. http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/fit/Page.asp?PageID=1347&ID=10491&ContentID=10096&SiteNodeID=1043&BL_ExpandID=&RetPageID=1365
  27. Go Solar, Financing Options,http://www.gosolarontario.ca/en/financing_gs.asp,
  28. GE Power FAQs, http://www.gepower.com/prod_serv/products/solar/en/faqs/resid_sys.htm#faq26
  29. GE Power FAQs, http://www.gepower.com/prod_serv/products/solar/en/faqs/resid_sys.htm#faq28
  30. http://www.greenboxusa.com/Default.aspx?tabid=785&txtSearch=solar+inverter&List=0
  31. http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/fit/Page.asp?PageID=924&ContentID=10095#Q3
  32. http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/fit/Page.asp?PageID=924&ContentID=10095#Q3
  33. Discussion with Brad Leonard, Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow
  34. Discussion with Brad Leonard, Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow
  35. Discussion with Brad Leonard, Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow
  36. Discussion with Katy Simoes, Services Advisor, Utilities Kingston
  37. Discussion with Brad Leonard, Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow
  38. Luc Gagnon, Camille Bélanger, and Yohji Uchiyama, “Life-cycle assessment of electricity generation options: The status of research in year 2001,” Energy Policy 30, no. 14 (November 2002): 1267-1278.
  39. http://www.forbes.com/2009/05/26/denmark-green-business-markets-equity-renewables.html
  40. http://uk.reuters.com/article/behindTheScenes/idUKTRE51B7FV20090212v
  41. Palo Alto Hardware Solar Division, Installation FAQ
  42. From www.ehow.com
  43. OPA FIT Contract, Draft, June 8, 2009, http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/fit/Page.asp?PageID=122&ContentID=10238&SiteNodeID=1039&BL_ExpandID=
  44. FIT Terms and Conditions, June 2009, http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/fit/Storage /10/10251_FIT_Contract_Terms_and_Conditions_-_Draft_June_8_2009.pdf
  45. http://www.greenenergyact.ca/Storage/26/1734_FITs_Program_Review_-_May_29-09.pdf