In our continual efforts to improve the long-term sustainability of the Comox Valley, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) has undertaken several solar energy installations designed to reduce the environmental footprint of local facilities. More information about each of these projects can be found below.

CVRD Facilities with Solar PV Systems

In 2013, the CVRD installed photovoltaic solar systems on four rural facilities. Then, in 2016, we worked with the Hornby Island Community Economic Enhancement Corporation and the Hornby Island Residents and Ratepayers Association to establish a solar energy demonstration project at the Hornby Island Free Store. Each of these installations is connected to the BC Hydro grid through the Net Metering program. Live monitoring data for many of them is available online – further details on each installation can be found below.

More information on Net Metering can be found on the BC Hydro website

Oyster River Fire Hall

View a live feed of the energy being produced at the Oyster River fire hall.

LocationOyster River
OwnerComox Valley Regional District
InstallerTerratek Energy Solutions Inc.
Solar Array3.76 kilowatt roof mount
Sharp Electronics ND-L235Q2
InverterPower One PVI-4200-OUTD-US
Tilt Angle35 degrees
System SetupNet metered with BC Hydro
Installation DateQ1 – 2013
Unit Cost Over 30 Years$0.131 per kilowatt-hour
Comox Valley Water Services Building
LocationComox Valley Water Services Building
OwnerComox Valley Regional District
InstallerTerratek Energy Solutions Inc.
Solar Array7.755 kilowatt ground mount
InverterPower One PVI-5000-OUTD-US
Power One PVI-3000-OUTD-US
Tilt Angle35 degrees
System SetupNet metered with BC Hydro
Installation DateQ1 – 2013
Unit Cost Over 30 Years$0.119 per kilowatt-hour
Fanny Bay Fire Hall

View a live feed of the energy being produced at the Fanny Bay fire hall.

LocationFanny Bay Fire Hall
OwnerComox Valley Regional District
InstallerTerratek Energy Solutions Inc.
Solar Array1.41 kilowatt pole mount
Sharp Electronics ND-L235Q2
InverterEnphase M215 Micro-inverters x6
Tilt Angle35 degrees
System SetupNet metered with BC Hydro
Installation DateQ1 – 2013
Unit Cost Over 30 Years$0.15 per kilowatt-hour
Royston South Sewer Project Office

View a live feed of the energy being produced at the Royston South Sewer project office

LocationRoyston water services building
OwnerComox Valley Regional District
InstallerTerratek Energy Solutions Inc.
Solar Array1.88 kilowatt roof mount
Sharp Electronics ND-L235Q2
InverterEnphase M215 Micro-inverters x8
Tilt Angle30 degrees
System SetupNet metered with BC Hydro
Installation DateQ1 – 2013
Unit Cost Over 30 Years$0.15 per kilowatt-hour
Hornby Island Free Store

View a live feed of the energy being produced at the Hornby Island Free Store.

Solar Panel FAQ
Definitions

PV Modules (Solar Panels) - Photovoltaic (PV) modules take sunlight and convert it to electricity. The modules produce DC electricity.

Solar Combiner - PV modules are wired together in series to meet the grid tie inverter’s input voltage requirements. These groups of modules are called strings. Multiple strings are combined in parallel to create one circuit from solar.

AC Mains Panel and Utility Meter - Regulates power consumption and production via net metering. Net metering means you only pay the difference between what you produce and what you use.

AC Disconnect - Requirement under the Canadian Electrical Code to have the ability to disconnect all sources of power production.

Grid Tie Inverter - An electronic device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). This device provides AC electricity to your main service panel as solar creates it in DC.

How do solar panels or modules work?

Solar modules or panel are made up of individual solar cells. The cells contain two layers: one positively charged layer and a negatively charged layer. When light shines on these cells, electrons bounce back and forth between the layers, creating voltage. Each cell generates approximately 0.5 volts DC. These cells are wired, in series, to create a nominal voltage (typically 12 or 24 volts DC).

Solar modules are typically mounted to a rack on the roof or on the ground at an angle. The most effective angle in our climate is 35 degrees. The most effective direction is south.

Because solar modules create DC electricity and houses and businesses typically consume AC electricity, the power must be converted to AC using an inverter. These inverters can be either battery-based or battery-less, which is most common with grid tie systems. The inverter converts the power to AC and the power feeds into the electrical service panel. From there, it is consumed by the local loads or fed back to the grid if not being used.

This arrangement with BC Hydro is called Net Metering. This program allows customers to produce a portion of their power onsite. BC Hydro monitors the inflows and outflows from the meter and creates “credits” for excess energy sent back to the grid. This works especially well in our climate where we receive an abundance of sunlight and long days during the summer months, but we receive very little sun in the winter months. In the summer, a customer can build up credits during the long, sunny days and use those credits during the winter when energy consumption is greater.When a power system is grid tied it is connected to the utility provider such as BC Hydro. By connecting to the grid you do not need batteries to provide peak loads and you can sell excess electricity to BC Hydro through the net-metering program. Batteries can still be part of the system if you wish to have a backup for use during power outages.

What are the financial benefits to a solar system?

Solar systems have a very long lifespan – typically 35 years or longer. Based on historical weather data, the production from a solar system can be estimated quite accurately. If the capital cost of a system is amortized over a conservative lifespan of 30 years, a unit cost per kilowatt-hour can be calculated. As this unit cost is a fixed cost, comparing it to the current and projected utility rates will give the system owner a sense of cost savings over the system’s lifespan.

The current estimated cost of using a solar PV system over a 30-year period is $0.121 kWh. The current price of BC Hydro electricity is $0.09 kWh, but is expected steadily rise over the next 30 years. Generally, yes. Solar can be installed on all types of roofing including metal, asphalt, cedar, tile and flat.

What is "grid-tie"?

When a power system is grid-tied, it is connected to the utility provider, which in the Comox Valley is BC Hydro. By connecting to the grid, you do not need batteries to provide peak loads and you can sell excess electricity to BC Hydro through the net-metering program. Batteries can still be part of the system if you wish to have a backup for use during power outages. If your roof is not a suitable location for photovoltaics, we can mount the modules on racks or poles. Racks are typically stationary but they can be made to tilt for seasonal optimization. Poles can be stationary however poles are often used with trackers, which allow the modules to follow the sun's path through the day.

Can PV be installed on my roof, regardless of roof material?

Generally, yes. Solar can be installed on all types of roofing, including: metal, asphalt, cedar, tile and flat. That depends on your goals and if you are connected to the grid or not. Grid tied systems can be as large as you want. Often budget and the percentage of offset are influencing factors in the final decision. Off-grid systems are sized based on a load calculation, which comes down to a balance of lifestyle and budget.

What if the PV system cant fit on my roof, or what if my roof isn't facing south?

If your roof is not a suitable location for photovoltaics, the modules can be mounted on racks or poles. Racks are typically stationary, but these can be adjusted to tilt for seasonal optimization. Poles can be stationary; however, poles are often used with trackers (which allow the modules to follow the sun’s path through the day).

How big of a PV system do I need?

That depends on your goals and if you are connected to the grid or not. Grid-tied systems can be as large as you want. Often budget and the percentage of offset are influencing factors in the final decision. Off-grid systems are sized based on a load calculation, which comes down to a balance of lifestyle and budget.

What happens if produce more electricity than I am using?

With a grid tie PV system any energy produced that you don't use is sold to BC Hydro through an agreement know as Net Metering. BC Hydro will credit you for electricity that you provide to the grid, and if you have a large system or use very little energy, you could be net zero. Net zero means over the course of the year you produce all of the energy that you will consume.

What is the return on investment for solar photovoltaics?

As with any renewable energy system, this is a longer term investment, but the amortized capital cost of a solar electric system equates to 11+ cents per kilowatt hour over a 30 year lifespan. It won’t be long until that cost is on par or is less than what we pay to the utility! This means that while you're essentially paying for your electricity upfront, instead of every month, you will never pay less for electricity in BC than you do today. And as electricity rates are already approved to increase dramatically over the next few years when those rates increase, the payback for solar electric systems shrinks.

The bottom line is that we need to look at a few factors to understand the real return on investment (ROI), such as escalating energy costs, increased value and peace of mind. It would be great if gas was always going to be $1 a liter or electricity $0.09/kWh, but we have seen periodic price spikes in energy cost more than ten times the inflation rate and the price of natural gas in BC double between 2002 and 2007. Also consider that the capital investment and reduced operating cost of a solar electric system installation will often pay back at resale! In this day and age it's impossible to put a price on environment. The extra electricity we consume and fossil fuels we burn, while good alternatives are out there, is just digging a bigger hole for future generations. With this in mind, isn't the promise of reduced energy bills and cleaner living worth something?