Category: Grid-tie Solar

HOW A SOLAR DEVELOPER MAKES MONEY

Solar CFO gives our clients the truth about commercial solar to make your transaction completely transparent
Solar CFO gives our clients the truth about commercial solar to make your transaction completely transparent

HOW A SOLAR DEVELOPER MAKES MONEY

Casey Gilley

Casey Gilley

Solar / Commercial Real Estate / Project Finance

If you are familiar with commercial real estate development, the risks and rewards associated with solar development are quite similar. This article will use real estate development as an analogy so you can understand how and when your solar developer is making money on your commercial solar project and you can ensure that you are getting the best deal possible.

So what does a solar developer do anyhow? Like real estate developers, solar developers source a project, line up financing (equity and debt), then design and build the project. Commercial solar is installed by an “EPC” contractor which is the equivalent of a “GC”. Hire an ENGINEER to design and permit the project, PROCURE the solar equipment, then hire a qualified installation crew to perform the CONSTRUCTION.

HERE’S HOW THE SOLAR DEVELOPER MAKES MONEY

A solar developer will make two fees: a development fee / construction management fee and a profit at sale of the project (unless they are building a project with their own funds under a buy-and-hold strategy).

Development fees can vary widely but a range of $0.10 to $0.50 per watt is possible depending upon system size and scale. This equates to about 5% to 15% of total project costs. The profit on a sale of a system is function of the system cost and future electricity revenue from the off-taker, just like real estate has a return on cost metric which is a function of annual rent and building cost.

Like real estate, you can sell a solar development project at different phases: Pre-NTP, NTP, or PTO (more on that later). The value of the project increases as each milestone is reached. Real estate can be sold as raw land, land with entitlements, a completed building, or a fully stabilized building. The phases of a solar project are similar.

NTP (NOTICE TO PROCEED): Finding a solar project and “entitling” it, is where the action is at. This is where solar developers make the highest ROI with a relatively small amount of capital out-of-pocket (around $20,000 for an average commercial solar project). It’s arguably the most difficult part because you are securing a deal. In real estate, a developer can tie-up land, put it in escrow, then start working on the entitlements to build a project. Once the real estate developer has the entitlements, they can close on the land and obtain cheap financing to build a project.

Once a solar developer has a project at NTP, the developer can go to a variety of financing sources including wall street funds, debt lenders, and private investors to obtain financing to build your project. Another option is the developer can sell your entitled project for a profit to an investor who wants to build and own the project. Many large solar funds do not take pre-development risk, so at NTP the pool of investors becomes much larger. Investors are looking to make somewhere around a 10-12% unlevered IRR (after thetax credits) at this point because there is still execution and construction risk. The solar developer is going to make the spread between their out-of-pocket costs and whatever the buyer will pay by backing into the 10-12% IRR target.

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PRE-DEVELOPMENT

Most investors are not willing to take pre-development risk, so the solar developer must use their own cash for expenses leading up to the construction of the project. A solar developer needs a few signed documents and approvals to have a real deal and make money. These are like having entitlements for a piece of raw land to develop for real estate.

Site Control / rights to your roof or parking lot.This can come in the form of lease agreement, easement, or similar agreement. This can also come in the form of an “option” to control your roof / site once all of the approvals are received. For example, the building owner will give the developer exclusive rights to develop their solar project for a period of 6-12 months in exchange for consideration. The developer is incurring legal fees and spending time with the building owner negotiating these documents.

Off-taker PPA (Power Purchase Agreement).All projects need someone buy the electricity produced by the system at a set price.  The buyer is called the “off-taker”. The higher the electricity price, the more valuable the solar project. The price might be fixed or it could be a floating number that mirrors utility costs (i.e. you sell power for 5% less than the utility would have charged). The PPA could be with (A) one or more tenants in a building (NNN leases); (B) the building owner who is charging tenants for electricity and seeking reimbursement (gross leases); (C) the owner-user of a building; or (D) a municipal or government program such as community choice aggregator.

Design & Engineering Documents: A solar system layout, an electrical one line diagram, and a structural analysis of the site to verify the roof can support the system – all stamped by a Professional Engineer will be needed. Once the above documents are obtained, the solar developer can submit to the city or county planning department for approval. Engineering plans will cost the developer $5,000 to $20,000 for a typical commercial real estate project. Engineers can turn around a plan set within 2-4 weeks in most cases and the building permit will take a few weeks as well, depending on jurisdiction.

Interconnection agreement.This is the agreement that allows your building / solar project to feed into the grid of the local utility so that the building can draw power from the grid when solar electricity is not available, but also send any excess power generated by your project back into the grid. The solar developer may choose to submit an application to the utility to obtain approval for interconnection in parallel to the building permit application process. Interconnection costs vary by jurisdiction but about $5,000 is a ballpark estimate. The site layout and one line diagram from the engineering plans will be required to submit Interconnection.

Once the solar developer has all of the above approvals in-hand, this is considered “NTP” or notice-to-proceed.  The hard work is done, and the developer can cash-in for having a deal just like a real estate developer can sell a fully entitled project for a profit.  

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PERMISSION TO OPERATE (PTO)

Now you are at NTP, next step is to procure the equipment and construct the project. Solar developers who want to make even more money will build the project through “PTO” or permission to operate. They will make more overall dollars, but the ROI is much lower because they are fronting all of the hard costs for materials and labor to construct the project.

The engineer should provide the solar developer with an exact bill of materials which can be used to solicit quotes from vendors to procure the equipment. A good system will have Tier 1 panels as rated by Bloomberg with a warranty of 25 years. The final step is to hire a qualified contractor to install the racking, solar panels, and complete all of the wiring for your project. Depending on size, a typical solar project for a commercial real estate building can be installed in about 2-6 weeks once materials arrive on site.

Once the physical components are installed, the system is ready to energize / commission. The contractor will ensure that the system is properly connected to the meter and that the interconnection requirements are met. The city will inspect the site, verify documentation, and then sign off on the final building permit. The formal industry term for this is PTO (permission to operate from the utility). The date the project is actually turned on, and responsibility handed over from the contract to the site owner is COD (Commercial Operation Date). Once the system is at PTO, this similar to a building that has a Certificate of Occupancy.

Execution and construction risk are no longer an issue, which means that even more investors are willing to buy the project from a solar developer. It’s the equivalent of a stabilized project, although there will still be some bugs to work out. At this phase, depending on the ultimate credit of the off-taker (or buyer of the electricity) an investor is looking to earn a 7-9% unlevered IRR.  The cost of the system including the development fee that the solar developer is charging, the PPA price, annual escalations, projected building vacancy, and term of agreement all impact the price that the buyer is willing to pay, and hence impact the overall IRR of solar project.

PORTFOLIO SALE

Like real estate, the institutional funds have a minimum check size to do a transaction. Developers will need to build up a portfolio of at least 2-3 mW of projects. Now they can go sell this portfolio for >$5 million and hopefully make even more money.

At Solar CFO, we are giving our clients the truth about commercial solar and making your transaction completely transparent. Please contact me if you have any questions[email protected] or visit our websitewww.solarcfo.com. P.S. Ask me in a couple years if this is a good path to get rich in the solar business!

Credit Link: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-solar-developer-makes-money-casey-gilley/

2024 Budget – Key Takeaways for Canadian Solar Installers

Canada Greener Homes Program

Greener Homes Grant (NRCan):

The first tranche of funding ($2.6B) for the Canadian Greener Homes Grant was fully subscribed in early 2024.  Applicants that received their APA numbers are still eligible to complete their retrofits and claim the grant, but the program is closed for new applicants.

Canada Greener Homes Affordability Program (NRCan):

$800 million over five years, starting in 2025-26, to launch a new Canada Greener Homes Affordability Program that will support the direct installation of energy efficiency retrofits for Canadian households with low- to median-incomes. The budget is clear that this additional $800m is for new NRCan grant funding and is to work with the existing Greener Homes Loan program, but it is now clear that there will be no new grant applications possible in 2024.  This information is found on page 79 of the budget.

Greener Homes Loan (CMHC):

The existing 0% interest, 10yr amortization loan of up to $40,000 is still in place with no change to the application process including pre- and post-audits.  Charge Solar believes that, at the current usage rate, there is sufficient remaining funds for new loan applications through to at least the end of 2024.  We will update our customers as we learn more.  Loan website here.

Investment Tax Credits

Clean Technology ITC:

The Clean Technology ITC provides a 20-30% refundable tax credit for Canadian businesses to invest in clean technologies such as solar and battery storage.  While the eligibility window started in March 2023, the legislation is still working its way through Parliament as Bill C-59.  The budget indicates on page 182 that “With the support and collaboration of Parliamentarians, the government anticipates Bill C-59 receiving Royal Assent before June 1, 2024.”  Further information on the Clean Technology ITC is available on our most recent webinar here.

Clean Electricity ITC:

The Clean Electricity ITC provides a 10-15% refundable tax credit to certain taxable and non-taxable corporations, including corporations owned by municipalities or Indigenous communities, and pension investment corporations who invest in clean electricity generating assets such as solar and battery storage.  The eligibility period started on budget day (April 16, 2024) for projects that did not begin construction before March 28, 2023.  Enabling legislation for this ITC is expected to be introduced later in 2024.

 

April 19, 2024
Melanie Dorocicz
Link: https://www.chargesolar.com/info-center/latest/2024-budget-key-takeaways-for-canadian-solar-installers/

Light Up 2024 with Solar Power Store’s Amazing New Bifacial Solar Panels – Double the Power, Double the Impact!

Welcome to the Future of Solar Energy with Power My Home and Energy Economics!

If you’ve been exploring new solar panels, you’re in the right place. In our pursuit of staying ahead in the game and ensuring a lifetime assurance for your purchases, we are thrilled to introduce you to our latest innovation: the Bifacial Solar Panel. As we step into the new year of 2024, let’s embark on a journey to discover the incredible potential and advantages of these cutting-edge solar panels brought to you by Power My Home and Energy Economics.

Unlocking the Power of Bifacial Solar Panels:

So, what sets apart the Bifacial Solar Panel? It’s simple—they capture sunlight from both sides, doubling their efficiency and impact. Today, let’s delve into the intricacies of these panels, exploring their effectiveness, advantages, costs, installation tips, and more.

Understanding Bifacial Solar Panels:

A Bifacial solar panel is designed with photovoltaic cells that capture sunlight from both the front and back sides, utilizing reflected light from the ground or other surfaces. Unlike traditional monofacial solar panels, which capture sunlight from only one side, Bifacial Solar Panels can achieve an efficiency boost of up to 30%. This unique feature allows them to harness additional solar energy, especially in environments with reflective surfaces like snow, water, or light-colored terrain.

Harvesting Reflected Light:

Sunlight contains the power of reflection off various substances and surfaces, including ground surfaces. Bifacial cells capture this reflected light, a phenomenon referred to as “Albedo.” This makes Bifacial Solar Panels particularly effective in environments with reflective surfaces, enhancing their efficiency in capturing sunlight.

Types of Bifacial Solar Panels:

  1. Glass-Glass: Exceptional strength and resistance to heavy loads.
  2. Glass-Transparent Back sheet: Efficient bifacial operation with a more cost-effective approach.
  3. Glass-Back sheet: A good balance between efficiency and affordability.

Advantages of Bifacial Solar Panels:

  • Generate 30% more power with dual-sided efficiency.
  • Ideal for ground installations, outperforming rooftop installations.
  • Durability in harsh weather conditions, especially double glass panels.
  • Cost-effective when used in tracking systems, cutting costs by up to 16%.
  • Versatile for various installations, including glass-covered structures.

Disadvantages of Bifacial Solar Panels:

  • Higher initial costs due to increased manufacturing materials.
  • Not suitable for shaded or non-reflective areas.
  • Heavier than regular panels, complicating handling and adjustment.

Installation Considerations:

  • Ground-mounting: Ideal for maximizing reflection from various surfaces.
  • Roof-tops mounting: Less efficient on rooftops due to shading limitations.
  • Floating: Suitable for water surfaces, enhancing overall energy generation.

Expenses of Installing Bifacial Solar Panels:

While Bifacial Solar Panels come with a slightly higher price tag compared to monofacial panels, their enhanced energy production often balances out the additional upfront cost. Generally, expect a bifacial panel to be priced approximately 10 to 20 cents per watt more than its monofacial counterpart.

Cell Structures of Bifacial Solar Panels:

Several cell structures, including PERT, PERL, PERC, IBC, and HIT, offer varying efficiencies and bifacial capabilities. Choose the one that best suits your energy needs.

Effectiveness for Rooftops:

Bifacial Solar Panels are less efficient on rooftops due to shading limitations. Optimal functionality requires substantial space to prevent shading and facilitate effective absorption of reflected light.

Mounting Procedures:

  • Ground-mounting: Offers versatility for capturing light from various angles.
  • Roof-tops mounting: Requires fine-tuning of positioning and tilt for optimal absorption.
  • Floating: Suitable for water surfaces, enhancing overall energy generation.

Installation Tips:

  • Organize spaces under bifacial panels to minimize shadowing.
  • Maintain a minimum height of 101cm above the ground, as per IEEE recommendations.
  • Ensure the strength of mounting systems for proper support.
  • Opt for vertical alignment to reduce back panel blockage and aid in snow removal.
  • Consult a solar expert for the best bifacial panel height.

As we step into 2024, let’s embrace the future of solar energy with Power My Home and Energy Economics’ Bifacial Solar Panels. Double the power, double the impact—because a brighter, sustainable future starts with innovation.

Light up your world with Power My Home and Energy Economics! Visit www.powermyhome.ca

‘Go hard and go big’: How Australia got solar panels onto one in every three houses

For a brief period over several weekends this spring, the state of South Australia, which has a population of 1.8 million, did something no other place of similar size can claim: generate enough energy from solar panels on the roofs of houses to meet virtually all its electricity needs.

This is a new phenomenon, but it has been coming for a while – since solar photovoltaic cells started to be installed at a rapid pace across Australia in the early 2010s. Roughly one in three Australian households, more than 3.6m homes, now generate electricity domestically. In South Australia, the most advanced state for rooftop solar, the proportion is nearly 50%.

No other country comes close to installing small solar systems on a per capita basis. “It’s absolutely extraordinary by world standards,” said Dr Dylan McConnell, an energy systems analyst at the University of New South Wales. “We’re streets ahead.”

There was no overarching plan that made Australia the world leader in household solar PV. Analysts mostly agreed that it was a happy accident, the result of a range of uncoordinated policies across tiers of government. Many were subsidy schemes that were derided as too generous and gradually scaled back, but the most important – an easy-to-access, upfront national rebate available to everyone – endured. It has helped make panels cost-effective and easy to install.

Cost was a big consideration for the Jamiesons – Sean, Deb, and their 19-year-old daughter, Molly – when they installed a system on the four-bedroom house in a beachside suburb in South Australia’s capital, Adelaide, a decade ago. They upgraded to a larger 8kW system during a home renovation five years later, and have installed two batteries, the first subsidized as part of a state government scheme trialing household energy storage systems to help stabilize a power grid that increasingly runs on variable solar and wind power.

Sean Jamieson, a pilot with the airline Jetstar, said the setup had been “incredibly beneficial”, in part because his family uses a range of energy-hungry equipment, including a pool and hot tub. They first opted for solar after watching the price of grid electricity rise sharply, mainly due to the cost of rebuilding electricity transmission poles and wires. He said it has continued to make sense.

“I’m looking at paying it off [through savings on what annual power bills would otherwise have been] in three or four years, so it’s been a great investment,” he said of the household energy system. “Generally, solar is just a no-brainer in South Australia. We’ve got a lot of sunshine and the most expensive electricity in Australia, and in the beginning, it was heavily subsidized.”

Dr Gabrielle Kuiper, an independent energy and climate change strategist, noted Australia was not the first country out of the gate on rooftop solar – that was Germany, which introduced the first subsidy scheme, and “none of us would be here without them” – but said it was one of the first to capitalize on the German model. It began with a natural advantage: more sun than nearly any other wealthy country. Even the southern island state of Tasmania is at a latitude that would place it level with Spain and California if it were in the northern hemisphere.

Kuiper said Australia had succeeded at solar for reasons beyond geography. Incentives were a big part of it, but the technology’s rise was accelerated by ordinary people embracing it to have some control over their power bills and, in some cases, play a small part in tackling the climate crisis by reducing the country’s reliance on coal.

The subsidies initially included a national rebate of A$8,000 for a small 1kW array – more than the sticker price in parts of the country. It was complemented by state government feed-in tariff schemes that paid households for the energy they fed back into the power grid and, in some cases, for all the electricity they generated.

There was little planning in how the various incentives fit together and critics attacked it as an expensive and inefficient way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But it kickstarted an industry of installers, sales people, trainers and inspectors, and quickly made solar a viable option for people beyond the country’s wealthiest suburbs.

Today, the feed-in-tariffs have been cut, but the national rebate scheme survives, with bipartisan support despite deep divisions over other responses to the climate crisis. Analysts and industry players have praised its elegant design. The rebate is processed by and paid to the installer. The buyer may not even know it exists. It is reduced by about 8% each year, a rate that roughly keeps pace with the continuing fall in the cost of having panels installed.

The fall in cost has been significant. The sums vary depending on geography, but the SolarQuotes comparison site suggests many Australians can get a 6kW solar system for about A$6,000 (£3,100). The panels are likely to have paid for themselves within five years.

The influx of solar has brought challenges, including how to manage the flood of near-free energy in the middle of the day that risks making inflexible coal generators unviable before the country is ready for them to be turned off. Some states have responded by curtailing how much can be accepted into the grid, but Kuiper says this can be addressed through increasingly creative management. Answers include improving incentives for household batteries and fostering a two-way energy exchange between the grid and a growing electric vehicle fleet.

Rooftops provided 11% of the country’s electricity over the past year, part of a 38% total renewable energy share. The Australian government has set a challenging national goal of 82% of all electricity coming from renewables by 2030.

Simon Holmes à Court, a longtime clean energy advocate and convener of the political fundraising body Climate 200, said it was clear rooftop solar was playing a bigger part in reaching that than many people expected. “Not long ago renewables skeptics laughed at rooftop solar’s ‘tiny’ contribution. These days there’s no question solar is playing a major role in pushing coal out of our grid,” he said.

Tristan Edis, an analyst with the consultants Green Energy Markets, said the lesson for those watching on was pretty simple: the generous early subsidies worked. “It really was this fortuitous accident that happened,” he said. “The message from it is pretty clear: go hard and go big, or don’t bother.”

Link Reference: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/nov/01/how-generous-subsidies-helped-australia-to-become-a-leader-in-solar-power

Households have continued to use state help that was first created more than a decade ago by Adam Morton

Copy Rights Reserved For www.theguardian.com

🏡🌿 Attention Homeowners in Canada: Don’t Miss Out on the Greener Grant Home Opportunity! Act Now! 🇨🇦💚

The clock is ticking, and the opportunity to transform your home into an eco-friendly haven with the Greener Grant Home is slipping away. 🕒 As of now, a staggering 65% of the funds allocated for this incredible federal government initiative have already been snapped up. 🌟

🌞 Imagine lower energy bills, reduced carbon footprint, and increased comfort within your home. The Greener Grant Home can make this vision a reality.

💡 Here’s why you should seize this opportunity NOW:

🌱 Unparalleled Savings: With up to 65% of the funds already allocated, there’s no time to waste. The Greener Grant Home offers substantial financial incentives to make your home more energy-efficient, from insulation upgrades to efficient heating systems.

💚 Environmental Impact: Every energy-efficient upgrade you make through the Greener Grant Home reduces your carbon footprint and contributes to Canada’s commitment to sustainability and a greener future for generations to come.

🏠 Enhanced Home Value: Say goodbye to chilly winters and sweltering summers. With the Greener Grant Home, you can enjoy year-round comfort in your home, and the installation of solar panels ensures your home value goes up, contributing to a sustainable and financially sound future.

💰 Long-Term Savings: Lower energy bills are a given when you make your home more energy-efficient. These savings continue to add up over the years, making your investment in a greener home a wise financial decision.

🤝 Don’t miss out on this golden opportunity to enhance your home’s energy efficiency while saving money and reducing your environmental impact. The clock is ticking, and funds are running out!

🚀 Act NOW and take the first step toward a Greener Home. Reach out to us for a FREE assessment or visit the official Greener Grant Home website to learn more and start your application process. Your future self and the planet will thank you! 🌎🌟

#GreenerHome #EnergyEfficiency #Sustainability #GreenLiving #Canada #FederalInitiative #ActNow #EnvironmentallyFriendly #HomeImprovement

Let’s make our homes greener and our planet brighter together! 🏡🌿💡

 

Click Here For Details (PDF File)

A green machine: New Brunswicker uses solar to power his electric pickup truck

‘There’s probably going to be a huge demand in the future’

A red Ford truck parked next to an angled collection of solar panels. There are orange trees in the background.

 

A future landscape for many might include an electric vehicle powered by a solar grid that can run electricity for a home when the power goes out.

But it’s not that futuristic for one New Brunswick man. In fact, it’s his reality.

Cory Allen, who lives in Nasonworth, N.B., switched to electric vehicles in 2019, beginning with an SUV.

He said he still had a gas car in the garage at the time because, like many people, he was skeptical.

More recently, he got an electric pickup truck, the Ford F-150 Lightning. He said it has some “really cool” features, including being able to “back feed” electricity into the house.

In the event of a power outage, Allen’s automatic standby generator would kick in, which he said would cost around $6 or $7 per hour to run.

But then he could go to the garage and flick a transfer switch that would allow the truck to power the house. He said the truck can power the house for around two days before needing a charge.

A man wearing a navy blue collared shirt standing in front of a mountain landscape

Not only that but the truck is charged using solar energy.

Allen had a 12.8-kilowatt array of solar panels installed that feed into the garage where vehicles are charged. He said the truck takes around eight hours to go from zero power to a full charge.

He said he went with a grid-tied solar system for his home, which is different than a standard setup, so there’s no battery component.

He said when the vehicles are charging, they will take all of the solar energy that’s being produced. But when they are not actively using all of the solar energy, the meter will run backward and the power will be banked for when they need it, Allen said.

His panels are on a wooden frame in the field by his house. That was more cost-effective than putting them on the roof of his home since the field has a better southern exposure, which means increased sunlight.

Not a lot of public knowledge

The idea for the setup originally came from Epic Energy, a New Brunswick solar energy company, when Allen approached them about a solar array.

“The electrician came over and we began talking and … he just offered so many of these awesome ideas,” said Allen.

Richard Knappe, president of Epic Energy, said there isn’t a lot of public knowledge about using solar to power electric vehicles, but they have had conversations with interested clients.

He said there also aren’t many vehicles that have the necessary technology.

“There’s probably going to be a huge demand in the future,” said Knappe. “But right now, we’re pretty limited to the F-150 Ford, and the Hyundai IONIQ 5.”

When it comes to setting up these types of systems, the wiring does get pretty complicated, he said. Knappe has an electrician who does this work, but he said it is hard to find electricians with that particular knowledge.

Long-term financial benefit

Allen said having an electric vehicle is also a long-term financial benefit for him.

He said the truck is expensive upfront at roughly $100,000. Then there is around $11,000 for the solar array and about $7,000 for the electrical work.

But the cost makes sense in the long run, Allen said.

He said as a small business owner who travels a lot, he was spending a lot on gas to fuel a pickup truck.

But without having to buy gas, he said his monthly payments come out to less since he’s only making payments on the truck.

Allen said one of the things that makes him feel good about his setup is the carbon footprint.

He said there is a heavy carbon footprint at the outset for the production of electric vehicles and solar panels. But, after using them for around five years, he said his household could be net zero.

He said environmental concerns are always something he tries to keep on top of his mind.

“I often joked, ‘Well, at least I’m offsetting the gas I put through the truck with the car,'” said Allen. “But now we have the electric car and the truck, so I don’t even have to worry about that joke anymore.”

Alberta is in a solar power gold rush — and there are lessons for the rest of Canada

People congregate in front of a solar power array in Alberta on a sunny day.

Growing up near Fort McMurray, Alta., Randall Benson started working in the oilsands like many of his family members. However, in the mid-1990s, the long hours and ecological impacts of the industry had him rethinking his occupation.

“I just found it counterintuitive to how I was raised to respect our environment, and so I made a decision to find something that was kind of the opposite,” said Benson, now 52.

The “opposite” turned out to be solar energy, which he learned about while flipping through a magazine after moving to Edmonton.

About 25 years later, Benson is pleased to see utility-scale solar projects booming — a welcome addition to the residential and community solar installations his company, Gridworks Energy, builds. Benson is working on a project commissioned by the Métis Nation of Alberta, of which he is a member, designed to generate enough power for 1,200 homes.

It’s part of a renewable energy boom in a province world-famous for its oil reserves.

There’s “almost gold rush-level activity for solar” in Alberta, said Sara Hastings-Simon, assistant professor at the University of Calgary and an expert in energy and climate policy. “The majority of solar that we have in the system in Alberta today was installed in 2021-2022. So this is a really very recent phenomenon.”

According to research by Hastings-Simon and colleagues, in 2021, renewables — solar, wind, and hydro combined — accounted for 14.3 percent of electricity on the Alberta grid, compared to less than three per cent in 2002. She expects that number to increase in 2022.

Hastings-Simon said multiple factors helped create the conditions for this growth in solar power.

Alberta and Ontario are the only Canadian provinces with deregulated wholesale energy markets. While a government with a regulated electricity market could decide to build renewables, Hastings-Simon said that a deregulated system allows for these projects to move forward because of open competition among energy suppliers and an easy route for companies to purchase renewable power directly.

The Alberta Electric System Operator is a not-for-profit organization that purchases power from an open market; the price of electricity changes hourly, set by supply and demand, Hastings-Simon said.

According to Natural Resources Canada, Alberta — in particular the south of the province — has great potential for solar power generation. Despite the vast resource and an open market, solar development was stuck in a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” situation, without anything to kick-start projects, said Hastings-Simon.

When NDP Leader Rachel Notley was premier, the province started a renewable electricity program, and while only wind projects were selected, it sent a message to corporate buyers that a renewable energy market was starting to take off in the province.

In 2018, the province put out a request for solar projects to power Alberta government facilities. This “helped to break that chicken-and-egg cycle,” said Hastings-Simon. The provincial government’s renewable energy procurement in turn sparked an “uptick in the interest of so-called non-utility procurement.”

In other words, instead of buying electricity from their utility, more companies and organizations are opting to work directly with renewable energy developers to secure electricity at a guaranteed price. This also works out well for renewable energy developers, who have to contend with variable rates when they sell power to the province.

For some companies, there was another incentive: under the federal carbon tax, solar can be used as an offset in order to comply with the cost of carbon pollution.

With the price of solar energy itself dropping, the effect was “the perfect storm” for a boom in solar development, said Hastings-Simon.

Much of the growth is happening in southern Alberta. That includes Canada’s largest solar farm to date, the Travers Solar Project in Vulcan County, which signed an agreement to sell electricity directly to Amazon.

The burst of solar activity has been welcome financially for Vulcan County. In recent years, some fossil fuel companies have walked away from properties, leaving outstanding tax bills unpaid, resulting in the county cutting its budget by 30 percent, said the county’s reeve, Jason Schneider.

According to Schneider, tax from renewable energy projects makes up 45 percent of the county’s revenue: about 25 percent of which is solar and 20 percent wind.

“It subsidizes everything,” he said. “It’s paying for libraries, it’s paying for roads, it’s paying for bridges.”

Hastings-Simon said the next hurdle the province may face will be keeping up with the capacity for solar projects to connect to the grid.

She points to Texas as an example of how to proceed. With lots of solar potentials, the state decided to “build transmission lines on the assumption that if we build it, developers will come and build renewable projects when they have that opportunity to interconnect [to the grid].”

When it comes to where public money can best be put to use to keep solar’s momentum going, she said transmission lines are “the biggest bang for the buck.”

 

Credits

Nova Scotia’s solar industry continues to soar at a record pace

Nova Scotia’s solar industry is growing. There was some uncertainty earlier this year when Nova Scotia Power proposed a fee for solar users, but after the government intervened, the solar sector saw another record-breaking year.

The solar industry in Nova Scotia is growing.

Each year for the past five to six years, the province has seen a record number of solar panel installations and there are now about 6,000 Nova Scotians with solar panels.

“With electricity prices rising, people see solar as a way to mitigate increases,” said David Brushett, chair of Solar Nova Scotia.

“Also, people care about the issues of climate change and see it as a way to take action to help reduce emissions.”

Another factor contributing to growth is the cost. Over the past decade, the price of solar panels has dropped nearly 90 percent.

“The sector has really progressed a lot over the last couple of years,” said Patrick Bateman, an energy sector consultant.

Bateman was one of the hundreds participating in the Atlantic Canada solar summit held at the Halifax Convention Centre this week. The conference offers those in the industry a chance to look at advancements in solar technology and discuss the sector’s future.

“Technology changes all the time so it’s of critical importance for people to get together, solve problems and create new opportunities,” said Bateman.

Growth in the province has largely been in the residential market, but there is hope that there will be growth in the commercial market next year.

David Miller, the director of clean electricity with the Department of Energy and Renewables, says growth in the commercial market was previously limited due to regulations but change is underway.

“Previously the max installed limit was 100 kilowatts, so it’s now 200 for some businesses and up to 1,000 for others,” he said.

In addition to that, there are new business deductions and tax incentives for businesses looking to go solar.

And while the price of solar has dropped significantly in recent years, the upfront cost is still too high for many and so the province is looking at community solar gardens as a way to make solar more accessible to all Nova Scotians.

“We’ll see larger solar projects constructed and allow individuals to subscribe to them, so you don’t have to own it, it doesn’t have to be on your roof,” he said.

“We see (this project as) opportunities to support lower-income families or middle-income families who might want to participate in the clean energy space but can’t afford that upfront cost.”

Nova Scotia has a goal of having 80 percent of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. While solar will play a role in this, the power generated by solar in the province is just a very small portion of what’s needed.

“Solar is a solution that you combine with other solutions,” said Bateman.

“Balancing solar with other existing resources is how we get to a cleaner future.”

 

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