Welcome to the radiant world of solar energy, where harnessing the power of the sun isn’t just a green initiative but a smart investment into a sustainable future.

Thomas Edison was well ahead of the curve in 1931 when he said, “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind, and tide…I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!”

While Edison himself likely couldn’t predict the scale that solar energy would reach from residential rooftops to solar canopies in carparks, is it a match for all spaces?

Let’s look at some of the misconceptions that prevent the adoption of solar in homes and small businesses and some of the true barriers to harnessing the power of the sun.

The Boom in Solar Energy Adoption

Canada has its foot fully off the brakes when it comes to implementing renewable energy. The Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA) celebrated 11.2% in growth for wind, solar & energy storage in 2023 to meet ambitious 2035 and 2050 net-zero targets.

“In 2024, CanREA will continue to advocate for policy and regulatory changes, focusing on the jurisdictions with the greatest potential for growth, to unlock the enormous opportunities offered by renewable energy and energy storage and their benefits for all Canadians,” said Vittoria Bellissimo, CanREA’s President, and CEO.

In Atlantic Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia, solar energy adoption is experiencing a significant uptick. Nova Scotia has seen a remarkable increase in solar power adoption, with 2,000 solar panels installed in 2023 alone – a record year. That brings the total residential installations to over 8,000. In comparison, 2018 saw just 200 installations.

What is driving the solar boom?

The good news for homeowners and small businesses? This lofty national goal to meet renewable energy benchmarks has meant a wealth of solar incentives, including tax credits and rebates.

Competition for all types of solar panels and installations has meant that the upfront costs of solar have dropped as well — falling by 30 to 40% in 2023 alone. 

Another driver of solar growth? Advancements in solar technology have made panels more efficient, even in shaded conditions, and allowed them to be mounted in unconventional settings—solar is not just for rooftops anymore!

Factors to Consider Before Going Solar

Solar energy, with its promise of reducing carbon footprints and slashing utility bills, beckons homeowners and small businesses alike to join the renewable revolution. However, the suitability of solar energy for any given space hinges on a variety of factors.

From geographic location and the design of your building to local regulations and the specific energy needs of your home or business, these elements collectively determine whether solar energy will be your ally in achieving energy independence or if alternative renewable options might better serve your needs.

Location, Location, Location

Just like the realtor says, it’s all about location. With solar panels, location and orientation can directly impact the system’s efficiency and return on investment.

Solar Azimuth Angle

In the diverse landscapes of Atlantic Canada, where weather patterns can vary significantly, the availability of sunlight plays a crucial role. Less sunlight won’t count you out completely. While it’s a common misconception that only regions with high sunlight exposure are suitable for solar energy, many areas with frequent cloud cover, like those found in Atlantic Canada, have successfully harnessed solar power.

If you choose the right panel and listen to local expert advice about the solar azimuth angle, you’ll still be in an excellent position to reap the benefits of solar. The azimuth angle determines how much solar radiation your panels receive throughout the day. In the Northern Hemisphere, azimuth is typically measured clockwise from true north, and the sweet spot is between 30 degrees and 45 degrees.

Shading

The proximity to trees or nearby buildings that may cast shadows should also be considered, as shading can significantly reduce the amount of solar energy that panels can capture.

Roof Realities

The condition, orientation, and space available on your roof are make-or-break factors when it comes to the effectiveness of solar panels. A roof in good condition, with ample unobstructed space and an orientation that catches optimal sunlight — typically south-facing in Atlantic Canada — is ideal for maximizing solar energy production.

However, not all roofs meet these criteria due to age, design, or surrounding shade from trees and buildings. For those with less-than-ideal roofs, there’s a silver lining in the form of ground-mounted solar systems. These systems offer a versatile alternative, allowing installation on open land that receives direct sunlight, circumventing rooftop limitations.

Energy Needs and Correlated Solar Output

Here’s where you should not rely on a Google search and instead seek out local expertise.

Understanding your energy needs in relation to what solar panels can produce is crucial for tailoring a solar energy system that aligns with your consumption patterns. It will repay you in maximized efficiency, but most importantly, an accurate estimate will get you the best return on your investment.

Calculating Solar Needs

In general, this works by calculating your average energy usage by reviewing past utility bills, which will give you a monthly kWh (kilowatt-hour) figure. This step provides a baseline for what you need your solar system to generate.

An expert will help pair you with a solar (PV) system that will maximize output. Considerations they will make include your budget, panel efficiency, the size of the installation, and local sun exposure. By comparing your monthly energy needs with the estimated output of a proposed solar panel system — factoring in the specific conditions of your location — you can ensure your solar investment is precisely scaled to meet your energy requirements.

How Many Panels Do I Need?

In regions with higher sunlight availability, fewer panels might be needed to meet the same energy demands compared to areas with less sun. For instance, a home in sunny parts of Canada might require fewer panels than one in cloudier Atlantic Canada to produce the same amount of energy.

Financial Considerations

Upfront Costs vs. Long-term Savings

Once a huge barrier to adopting solar, the upfront costs and long term savings are now finding a sweet spot with home owners and small businesses.

When considering solar energy for a home or small business, navigating the financial landscape is crucial. The dialogue between upfront costs and long-term savings forms the backbone of this decision-making process. Initially, the investment in solar technology can be significant, encompassing the cost of panels, installation, and any necessary modifications to the property.

While the initial expenditure is a serious consideration, it sets the stage for substantial long-term savings on electricity bills. Over time, the energy produced by solar panels significantly reduces reliance on grid-supplied electricity, translating to lower monthly expenses and protection against rising energy costs.

Incentives, Rebates, and Financing Options

To sweeten the deal, various incentives, rebates, and financing options are available to mitigate the upfront costs. In many regions, governments offer tax credits, rebates, and grants to encourage renewable energy adoption, effectively reducing the initial outlay for solar installations.  These financial aids not only lower the barrier to entry but also accelerate the return on investment.

Here are a few significant savings incentives that are available in Atlantic Canada.

Canada

  • Canada Greener Homes Loan

New Brunswick

  • Total Home Energy Savings Program
  • Greener Home Loans

Nova Scotia

  • Solar Homes Program
  • Solar City Loan
  • Clean Energy Financing Program

PEI

  • Solar Electric Rebate Program
  • Energy Efficiency Loan Program
  • PACE Atlantic

INCREASE YOUR HOME VALUE

Insurance is another critical aspect to consider. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found that for every dollar you save on electricity bills by using solar panels, your home’s value increases by $20. This is corroborated by real estate statistics indicating homes equipped with solar panels can fetch up to 4.1% higher sales prices than similar properties lacking solar installations.

Insurance:

While adding solar panels can increase the value of a property, it’s essential to ensure they are covered under your property insurance. This protects your investment against damage from weather events or other unforeseen circumstances, providing peace of mind alongside the financial benefits of going solar.

Making Solar Work for You

Making solar energy work for you might require a bit of creativity and adaptation, especially if your home or business doesn’t initially seem like an ideal candidate for solar panels.

Adaptation Strategies

One effective strategy is to consider alternative solar installations, such as ground-mounted systems or small-scale solar installations that power specific operations. These alternatives can bypass many of the limitations associated with roof-based setups and can be particularly useful if your roof is shaded, not optimally oriented towards the sun, or unable to support the weight of solar panels.

Consultation is Key

Why consult with a solar energy expert? Especially one with regional knowledge?

  • Consultation will ensure that you fully capitalize on the potential of your solar (PV) system.
  • Professional assessments comprehensively evaluate your situation, considering factors such as roof condition, orientation, local climate, and energy needs.
  • Experts possess the knowledge and tools to accurately estimate the energy production capabilities of a solar installation on your property, often uncovering opportunities and solutions that might not be immediately apparent.
  • Solar professionals can advise on available financial incentives and rebates, helping to make the project more affordable and ensuring you benefit from all possible savings.

Solar Energy Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All, But There is a Customized Solution for Almost Everyone

Solar energy is far from a one-size-fits-all solution; the good news is that solar manufacturers, installers, and consultants know that, and their job is to customize a solution for you. With a burgeoning array of technologies and strategies at our disposal, a bespoke solar solution exists for nearly every scenario.

In Atlantic Canada, where energy costs are on an upward trajectory, the timing has never been more opportune to explore these renewable options. Staying up to date on the latest advancements in solar technology and available incentives is crucial for determining the most opportune moment to make the switch.

Follow SolarU. We’re your go-to source for all the essential information you need to kickstart your sustainable energy journey!

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