Complete Guide For Solar Power British Columbia 2018

Congratulations! You’ve found the ultimate guide for going solar in British Columbia!

Solar Panel System
Photo used from one of our preferred solar installers

This page contains all available information about installing a solar power system in British Columbia, as of 2018.

British Columbia is current rated the #1 province in the country for solar power! Let’s not waste this incredible opportunity!

The page is broken into simple sections so you can easily find information about local companies, incentives programs, and utility information – depending on what you’re looking for.

You can read from top to bottom, or simply click on a section to skip to it below:


Overall Solar Rating: A+

British Columbia Solar Power

We’ve ranked British Columbia as being Canada’s best province for solar power! BC scores higher than the rest of the country due mostly to BC Hydro’s awesome solar policies (read more below). BC is also the only province with a PST exception on the sale of solar panels and equipment, decreasing the cost of installations.

Whether you live in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, or Abbotsford, the popularity of solar power in on the rise!

Curious to see how we rank our provinces? Check out our rankings and rating page to find out more.


Basics of Solar Power in British Columbia

This section covers some of the basic information about switching to solar power:

If you already consider yourself a solar expert, you can skip ahead to the British Columbia solar incentives section by clicking here.

Sizing Your System

In most cases, the first questions that come to a person’s mind are, “how big does my solar power system need to be?” and “can I completely off-set my electricity usage?”.

Answering these questions is as simple as knowing how much energy you use during the course of a year. Your monthly BC Hydro bill will show your usage (in kWh) exactly like in the photo below:

BC Hydro Bill

You’ll need to figure out how much energy you use in a year by adding up the amount shown for 12 consecutive months. Taking one month and multiplying by 12 won’t work because your energy use fluctuates depending on the season!

After you know how much energy you use, you can easily calculate the size of the solar power system that you’ll need by using the following equation:

Size of system needed = yearly energy use (in kWh) / 1,064h

(where 1,064h equals the annual average equivalent of full sunlight hours in British Columbia)

So let’s pretend you added up your power bills and determined that you use 10,000 kWh in the course of a year, you would then do the above calculation and determine that you need a 9.40 kW solar panel system!

10,000 kWh / 1,064h = 9.40 kW

Keep in mind that this is only a rough estimate. The size if your system may change depending on the angle your panels are installed at, the amount of shading that your system receives, and the amount of sunlight that your specific city gets. But not to worry…

If you get a free estimate, our partner installers can create a 3D model of your house, build in shading elements like trees or neighbouring buildings, and then use weather data from the closest weather station to calculate an extremely accurate estimate of how much energy your system will produce!

System Location

Now that you know the size of your system, you’ll want to determine the best place to put it. Most residential homeowners in British Columbia put the solar panels on their roof, while most rural homeowners put them on the roof of their house, shop, or in their yard.

If you’re putting solar panels on your roof, you should know:

  • A south facing roof is best, east and west facing are good, north facing is just OK
  • Output on panels are guaranteed for 25 years, so you may need to replace your shingles before installing
  • If you’re concerned about snow, roof mounted panels are harder to clean
  • Your roof’s pitch (slope) is not the most optimal angle for solar production

If you’re putting solar panels on the ground, you should know:

  • These systems are more expensive upfront due to piling requirements, mounting materials, and power line trenching…
  • … But are cheaper in the long term because they are more efficient (see next point)
  • They can be easily placed to avoid shading, to the optimal direction (south), and to the optimal angle (~45°)
  • Systems can be much larger than roof mounted ones

Cost of Installation

The final thing you’ll want to know is an approximation of how much your system will cost. To calculate this you’ll need to know the size of the system you plan to install.

The rough calculation is simple, take the size of your system and multiply it by the cost per installed watt quoted by your installer. Variation depends on the size of the system you’re installing, the location of your system, and which installer that you choose.

System cost = size needed x cost per installed watt

Click here to get a free solar power estimate.


British Columbia Incentives

Solar Performance Payments: A

Net Metering British Columbia

Programs: Net Metering

Selling Price: Retail Rate

Expiring: Not stated (revised 2015)

Excess Buyback Rate: 9.99¢

Size Limit: Up to 100 kW

Fees: None

BC Hydro Neter Metering Guide
Need more info? Check out BC Hydro’s Net Metering Guide.

BC Hydro has one of the better net metering policies in Canada because they purchase excess power produced by your solar system. This is opposed to a province like Saskatchewan and Manitoba where excess power is sent back to the grid without pay!

BC Hydro will purchase the power you produce at your current retail rate, and any excess power at 9.99¢/kWh.

Another bonus of the net metering program is that there are no fees associated with getting started. In some provinces it is necessary to pay for an interconnection study and for a new net meter which can cost in excess of $1,000.

Ready to get started? Click here to request a free cost estimate.

Solar Rebates & Tax Credits: C

Solar Power Rebates and Tax Credits British Columbia

Programs: PST Exemption

Savings: 7%, to installer

Expiring: Not stated (revised 2017)

Other: $250-$400, Nanaimo

Unfortunately, British Columbia is one of the few provinces in Canada without a major rebate or tax credit program. However, there is a PST tax exemption on the purchase of all equipment solar PV panels and equipment. This tax exemption will slightly decrease the costs to your installation company.

Are these companies passing on the savings to you? That is a good question to ask them!

Special Case: The Regional District of Naniamo is offering a $250 one time cash rebate for anyone who installs a solar power system. The Regional District of Nanaimo Renewable Energy System Incentive also applies to any homeowner in the RDN Electoral Areas and the District of Lantzville. The rebate can be increased to $400 if you have a development variance permit.


Utility

Electricity Costs: A

Electricity Prices British Columbia

Main Provider: BC Hydro

Average Rate: $0.08546/kWh

Average Fixed Cost: $5.70/mo

Interconnection Study Fees: None

Net Meter Fees: None

Although BC Hydro already offers fairly cheap electricity, BC score’s higher than most provinces because the fixed electricity costs are the lowest in the country! Remember, fixed costs don’t go away even if you’re using solar power. Just imagine living in Alberta, you would have to pay $48/mo even if you generated 100% of your own energy.

As mentioned in the incentives section, BC Hydro doesn’t charge for an interconnection study or for a net meter. These fees cost homeowners in other provinces up to $1000 extra on the price of their system.


Geography

Solar Potential: D

Solar Energy Production British Columbia

Average Production: 5320 kWh

Variation: Large

Main Effect: Cloudy Weather

British Columbia is one of the cloudier provinces in the country which decreases the overall amount of sunlight that hits your solar panels. However, this is highly variable depending on which area of the province you’re from.

Solar Resource Map British Columbia - Annual Average Solar Irradiation
Check out our solar maps page for more info!

According to a data collected in by National Resources Canada, the average solar system (5 kW) in British Columbia can produce approximately 5320 kWh of electricity per year!

This yearly average decreases as you move north in the province and increases as you move south and east (except on the island). For example:

  • A solar system in Kelowna would produce about 5661 kWh of power
  • A solar system in Victoria will produce 5456 kWh of power
  • A solar system in Vancouver will produce 4841 kWh of power

For comparison, here is what a 5 kW solar system looks like:

(Photo used with from a preferred installer)

You can figure out what size system you need by reading the the kWh on your hydro bill.

Pro tip: You should aim to install enough panels to offset 110% of your energy bill. This ensures that you will always producing enough energy to cover your costs, as regular solar panels degrade 0.5% to 0.7% per year.


Renewable Energy Policy

Portfolio Standards: A

Renewable Energy Goals British Columbia

Renewable Energy Goals: Already 93%

Solar Energy Goals: 100,000 Solar Water Heaters

British Columbia has one of the best renewable energy standards in the country, with almost all of the electricity being produced by hydro. And while there are no specific goals for solar PV, BC’s Energy Plan has includes the goal of adding solar heating to over 100,000 rooftops.

We continue to take the stance that community-owned solar power is the only way towards a truly sustainable future. Hang in there BC!

British Columbia Solar Power


Solar Power British Columbia: Summary

Because of BC’s awesome utility policies, PST exemption, and experienced solar installerswe rank it as being the #1 province in the country for switching to solar power.

Are you ready to get started? Click here to get a cost estimate today!


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